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Henricl'S S. Bowden 

Censor De-putahis. 



Episcopits Arindelensis 

Vicaniis Generalis. 


Die 2 Martii. 1908. 










Of St. Luke's, Wincanton. 



( 1 

Digitized^by the Internet Archive 

in 20l4with fundirr^ from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 


THE general purpose of the Mystical Writings 
of St. John of the Cross has been explained 
in the Introduction to the " Ascent of Mount 
Carmel." That work and the " Dark Night of 
the Soul " supplement each other. The former 
deals with the active purgation of the senses, the 
intellect and the will, that is, with the need for, 
and the manner of, a complete mortification of 
these powers, so far as with God's grace, it can 
be carried out by man's own exertions. The 
"Dark Night" treats of -the passive purgation 
of the same faculties, brought about by Divine 
intervention which steps in where human en- 
deavours fail."^ 

The two books were written about the same 
time, soon after St. John's escape from captivity 
in 1578. Both have for their text the stanzas he 
appears to have composed in memory of that 
event, and both are left unfinished. The Saint 

* " The Ascent of Mount Carmel," by St. John of the Cross, trans- 
lated by David Lewis. Nov edition. London: Thomas Baker, 1906. 
Introduction, p. 17. 




seems to have interrupted the former work in 
order to turn to the latter, but the exigencies of 
various duties imposed on him prevented the 
completion of these treatises. In the "Ascent" 
one half of the third and the whole of the fourth 
book are wanting ; it is not known how much he 
had originally intended to write on the " Dark 
Night/' certain it is that he only explained two 
out of eight stanzas, and dealt summarily with 
the third. Even so the most difficult, and there- 
fore the most important, part of his plan seems 
to have been carried out, and what is wanting 
may be supplemented from his other writings, 
notably the interpretation of the " Spiritual 
Canticle." In the two works under consideration 
he takes the reader over the most dangerous 
ground and leaves him only where personal 
guidance is no longer required. 

The *' Dark Night," though only a short treatise 
in comparison with the remaining works of St. 
John of the Cross, is perhaps from a practical 
point of view the most important of the whole 
series. Instructions for beginners may be found 
in abundance ; even the Night of the sense, as 


St. John informs us* has had numerous ex- 
ponents ; but in the Night of the spirit he breaks 
fresh ground. If it is one of God's ordinances 
that all spiritual life must be regulated by a 
director so that pitfalls may be avoided, a soul 
plunged into the Night of the spirit depends 
.more than any other upon the intelligent guidance 
of an experienced director, partly on account of 
its natural reluctance to proceed along a path 
beset with so many difficulties, partly because 
the very fact of its being in darkness prevents it 
from seeing clearly with its own eyes. In the 
" Ascent " and the " Dark Night " St. John has 
traced the way with admirable lucidity and 
simplicity, but these books, especially the latter, 
are chiefly addressed to the director. It is impos- 
sible to read them without gaining the conviction 
that his is the absolutely safe way ; there may 
be others, less straight, less rugged, but neither 
so safe or so direct. 

St. John, taking his position on the firm basis 
of the psychology and theology of St. Thomas 
Aquinas, and guiding himself by the light of Holy 

* " Dark Night," I, VIII, 2. 


Scripture, p itilessl Y dissects the_ soul and its 

operations, separating not only what is dangerous 
or unsound, but everything that is not directly 
conducive to his ultimate aim, the__uniQn_of the 
human _will wit h the holy will of God. A work of 
this magnitude must be begun by God, and 
accomplished by Him. The beginning consists 
in the grace of vocation, the end in the beatific 
vision. Between these two there lies a vast 
distance which it takes a lifetime to cover, where 
the generous and intelligent co-operation of the 
soul is indispensable. This is partly active, and 
consists in the systematic denial of everything 
that could give satisfaction to body or soul, as 
explained in the " Ascent " ; and partly passive 
(as shown in the '' Dark Night ") wherejthe^soul 
assists God's operation by submitting to His 
chastising hand, li ke a patient under the knife of 
the surgeon. 

The number of souls called to the contemplative 
life in its widest sense is even now-a-days greater 
than is commonly supposed. They are not con- 
fined to Rehgious Orders, but are to be found in 
every station of hfe, and in every country, for 


" the spirit breatheth where it will." Many 
proceed no farther than the initial stages ; few 
persevere as far as the spiritual night ; while 
those who attain to perfection are but exceptions. 
" Many praise and bless Jesus as long as they 
receive some consolation from Him, but if He 
hide Himself and leave them for a little while, 
they fall either into complaining or into excessive 
dejection."* This general falling off may be 
partly attributed to a want of understanding and 
guidance which St. John in the book before us 
undertakes to remedy. 

It may be useful for some readers of St. John's 
works to find here a short sketch of the experi- 
ences a soul generally makes on its journey through 
th^j^ealms of^ysticism. Let us suppose that it 
has been unexpectedly struck by a ray of Divine 
grace. It may never really have been estranged 
from God since the day of baptism, or it may have 
strayed, no essential difference would result there- 
from, because motion is determined not so much 
by the direction whence it proceeds but whither 
it tends. Such a soul, then, finds a delight, 

* Imitation, II, ii. 


hitherto unknown, in spiritual matters ; a new 
chord has been touched and set vibrating, the 
whole world seems transfigured, God's work 
becomes visible and palpable in every blade of 
grass, His interests absorb all earthly pursuits ; 
the human heart has found and holds fast a 
treasure of incomparable value ; heaven has 
descended upon earth. " This is he that heareth 
the word and immediately receiveth it with joy." 
Such an experience is indeed a great grace, but 
it does not last. True spirituality consists not in 
sentiments but in the exercise of virtue. The first 
impulse is not strong enough to carry the soul 
very far in its flight heavenwards. The question 
arises how best to utilise this initial motive power ? 
St. John gives the answer in the " Ascent." 
Almost ruthlessly he tears off the brilliant surface 
so as to save the substance. The first ray has 
indeed transfigured the heart but has not trans- 
formed it. There remain many dangerous germs, 
the weaknesses and shortcomings of human 
nature. The very warmth of paradise, the dew 
descending abundantly upon a tender heart might 
develop these so that " the last state of that man 


is made worse than the first." They must, there- 
fore be destroyed by a long process of self-denial. 
St. John teaches the beginner how to mortify his 
senses and faculties, sacrificing even much that 
in itself is good, in order to strengthen the soul 
by the simple exercise of Faith, Hope and Charity, 
and the four cardinal virtues. This is the active 

But this represents only the smaller portion of 
the work to be done. However, it prepares the 
way for Him who '' searcheth the reins and 
hearts." The passive purgation follows closely 
upon, and sometimes accompanies the former. 
The passive purgation of the sense is not 
merely a reaction from the exultation of the 
first awakening to spiritual fife, it cuts far deeper. 
Were it only a reaction it would end in lukewarm- 
ness, but he who is being tried by God, so far 
from growing indifferent, becomes the more dili- 
gent in seeking God, the more God appears to 
hide Himself, for he feels His absence keenly. 
" It is a great thing, says the author of the Imita- 
tion, forestalling St. John of the Cross, a very 
great thing to be able to do without all solace. 


both human and divine, and to be wilHng to bear 
this exile of the heart for the honour of God, and 
in nothing seek self, and not to have regard to 
one's own merit. What great thing is it to be 
cheerful and devout when grace comes to thee ? 
This is an hour desirable to all."* 

This purgation of the sense comes in different 
ways, such as reverses of fortune, loss of friend- 
ship, loss of one's reputation, ill success in one's 
undertakings, illness, and the whole train of 
temporal misfortunes. It is a.lways accompanied 
by the loss of sensible devotion. To keep still 
under the chastising hand of God elevates the 
soul to the plane where the holy man Job stood. 
If we have received good things at the hand of 
God, why should we not receive evil ? The active 
purgation through which the soul has passed 
under the guidance of St. John of the Cross is the 
best preparation for this passive purgation of 
sense, for there it has learnt to utterly despise 
all comfort. 

Far more terrible, as our author tells us, is the 
passive purgation of the Spirit which reaches 

* Imitation, II, ix. 


'' unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of 
the joints also and the marrow." Of course 
there are different degrees, all souls are not tried 
to the same extent, and St. John takes rather an 
extreme case. In the most acute form, then, 
positive Satanic interference adds to the distress 
of a soul already weighed down by a feeling of 
the loss of God. Sometimes it takes the shape of a 
spirit of blasphemy, or of uncleanness or despan\ 
The lives of the Saints furnish some remarkable 
instances of such trials. St. Mary Magdalen de 
Pazzi was subject to them for five years. St. 
Francis de Sales was, for a long time, haunted by 
the thought that he should be finally lost. The 
effect it had upon him was to render him ex- 
tremely conscientious so that he should offend 
God not even in small matters, and that his 
loss should not come through his own fault. 
'' Although He should kill me I will trust Him ; 
but yet I will reprove my ways in His sight. ' 

It stands to reason that a soul under such trials 
i s absol utely dependent upon the guidance of a . 
learned and experienced director. Otherwise the 
result might be fatal. In fact there is reason to 


tjiink that some of the appalhng faUs from spiritual 
height to utter perversion should be attributed 
to the absence of proper direction during this 
most dangerous period. 

/ The purpose of these trials is, however, not 
to throw the soul into despair but to wean it 
from all comfort so as to leave it with no other 
support than God Himself, as St. John says in 

^ one of his poems : 

My soul is detached 

From every thing created, 

And raised above itself 

Into a life delicious, 

Of God alone supported. 

And therefore I will say, 

That what I most esteem 

Is that my soul is now 

Without support, and with support.* 

Or, as it is expressed in some verses attributed 

to him : 

On Mount Carmel God alone and I. 
God alone in mv spirit to enlighten it, 
God alone in my acts to sanctify them, 
God alone in my heart to possess it. 

This is one of the objects of the passive purga- 
tion. Sooner or later every soul must pass through 

* W^orks (ed. 1891), II, 628. 


it. All that is of earth earthly will have to be 
left on one side before that which is of heaven 
heavenly shall appear. The process is under all 
circumstances a painful one, but it is unavoidable. 
St. John assists the soul in stripping itself, and 
allowing itself to be stripped here below. He 
calls this a purgatory, but a very different one 
from what awaits the soul after death, inasmuch 
as there the soul is cleansed by fire, and here by 
love. Moreover, the perfect purgation of the 
soul in the present life leaves it free to act with 
infinitely greater power, and therefore to gain 
innumerable merits, whereas after death the 
account is closed before even the soul enters 
purgatory. No power on earth could resist a 
thoroughly detached soul, it might almost be 
said to participate in God's omnipotence. Here 
lies the secret of the marvellous deeds of so many 

There is one other reason why the soul should 
pass through the trials of the Dark Night. Its 
ultimate destiny is union with God. Now the 
soul is finite, and God is infinite. The dispro- 
portion between the two is so enormous (being, 


in fact, infinite in itself) that the mere comparison 
must have a crushing effect upon the finite being. 
Every soul will have to pass through this ex- 
perience, the minority already in this life in the 
Dark Night of contemplation, the vast majority 
on leaving this life, when they will suddenly find 
themselves encompassed by the infinite Majesty 
and Power of the Godhead. When the finite 
comes into contact with the infinite it realises its 
utter nothingness ; it is humbled to the ground. 
The contrast causes it the most intense pain. 
This thorough humiliation makes it possible for 
the infinitesimal to be united to the infinite, for, 
as Christ says, " He who humbleth himself shall 
be exalted." 

An important point clearly established by St. 
John is the length of the trial. This depends, no 
doubt, on man}^ circumstances, on the thorough- 
ness of the purgation, on the amount of co-opera- 
tion on the part of the soul, probably also on the 
kind of imperfections to be removed ; the more 
subtle these are the more difircult are they to 
eradicate. But on the whole it is not probable 
that a soul would remain plunged in deep dark- 


ness f or jnany weeks together, without being 
comforted and strengthened by at least some 
passing rays of hght, some consolation to give it 
courage. Perhaps a very strong soul would 
require but few interruptions of this kind, but, 
excepting some highly favoured souls, an alterna- 
tion of glimpses of light and deep shadows seem 
to be the more usual experience. On this con- 
dition the Dark Night may continue for several 
years, and may even be repeated in different 
degrees of intensity. It is necessary to bear this 
in mind, for the study of Mystical works some- 
times leaves the impression that the various 
experiences follow each other in regular and rapid 
succession, and that there can be no turning back 
unless it be a falling away. 

^As the soul enters the Dark Night gradually so 
it emerges from it by degrees. Both in the 
" Ascent " and in the work before us St. John 
proceeds so far as the dawn of a new and glorious 
day. Of the full noonday he treats in the " Spiri- 
tual Canticle " and the '* Living Flame of Love." 
There the will is firmly united with the ^^''ill of 
God, the only kind of permanent union between 


man and God possible in this life. It is the height 
of perfection and so far above ordinary human 
experience that Mystical writers, St. John in- 
cluded, have found it necessary to use expressions 
of oriental exuberance, the ordinary language 
being quite inadequate to describe the happy 
condition of a soul arrived at this state. It 
stands in marked contrast with the almost grim 
sobriety of the expositions in the '* Ascent " and 
the '' Dark Night." Those who wish to form an 
opinion of the character of St. John should study 
both categories of his writings, otherwise he would 
appear to some as a stern, morose taskmaster, 
with never a smile on his lips, and to others as a 
dreamer of phantastic dreams, whereas he was a 
Saint with a wide heart and intense love, a most 
passionate love of his God, and, for God's sake, 
of his neighbour ; and, with all that, a man of 
practical work and common sense. 

It is hardly necessary to say much on the charge 
of Quietism brought sometimes against St. John 
of the Cross. The matter was fully investigated 
at the time of his beatification and canonisation. 
Had there been the slightest foundation for it 


the process would have been allowed to drop ; 
but as the charge has been repeated by writers 
who claim to have a right of being listened to, a 
word in reply may not be superfluous. According 
t ^ St. J ohn^ the soul while plunged into the Dark 
Night can do nothing, but must leave God free to 
.act. It is passive, but not inert ; by submitting 
to the Divine operation it co-operates in the 
measure of its power. But in all other states, 
notably in the active purgation of the " Ascent " 
the soul concentrates the utmost energy of all its 
powers on the one great work. We have seen 
there how St. John expects it to leave no recess of 
the heart or mind unexplored and undisturbed. 
Considering that it costs us infinitely more to 
free ourselves from those things for which we 
have, sometimes unconsciously, an attraction, 
than from what is alien to our nature, it will be 
seen that so far from tending to Quietism St. 
John's teaching exacts an amount of co-operation 
on the part of man that will probably surprise 
most readers. If, as it seems reasonable to think, 
the active purgation goes hand in hand with the 
passive purgation, and should continue not onl}* 


while the latter lasts, but to the end of life, there 
can be no question of a passive repose of the soul 
on the plea that God is working in the interior. 
Moreover, the state of perfection admits of no 
relaxation from work, besides the good works 
which will follow necessarily from the union of 
the human with the Divine Will, the highest 
contemplation is in itself an unfolding of all the 
powers of the soul, just as the Beatific vision is 
not a passive enjoyment but an operation of a 
soul lifted far above itself by the light of glory 
in the intellect and a new capacity for love in the 

Fr. benedict ZIMMERMAN. O.C.D. 

St. Luke's Priory, Wincanton, 
May 1st, 1907. 






Of the imperfections of beginners . . . . . . . . . . 5 


Of some spiritual imperfections to which beginners are liable in 

the matter of pride . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 

Of the imperfections of avarice, in the spiritual sense . . . . 13 

Of the imperfection of luxury, spiritually understood . . . . 16 

Of the imperfections of anger . . . . . . . . . . 21 

Of the imperfections of spiritual gluttony. . .. .. .. 22 

Of the imperfections of envy and spiritual sloth . . . . . . 27 

Explanation of the dark night . . . . . . . . . . 30 


Of the signs by which it may be known that the spiritual man is 

walking in the way of this night or purgation of sense . . 34 



How they are to conduct themselves who have entered the dark 

night 41 

Explanation of the second line of the first stanza . . . , . , 45 

Of the benefits of the night of sense . . . . . . . . 49 

Of other benefits of the night of sense .. .. .. .. 57 

The last line of the first stanza explained . . .... . . 64 



The second night ; that of the spirit. When it begins . . . . 68 

Of certain imperfections of proficients . . . . . . . . 71 

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 

The explanation of the first stanza . . . . , . . . . . y-j 


The dim contemplation is not a night only, but pain and torment 

also for the soul . . . . . . . . . . . . . , 78 

Of other sufferings of the soul in this night . . . . . . 83 

The same subject continued. Otlier afflictions and trials of the 

will 88 



Other trials of the soul in this state . . . . . . . . 95 


How this night enlightens the mind, though it brings darkness 

over it . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • 100 


Explanation of this purgation by a comparison . . . . . . 108 


A vehement passion of divine love the fruit of these sharp 

afflictions of the soul .. .. .. .. .. .. 113 


How this awful night is like purgatory. How the divine wisdom 
illuminates men on earth with that light in which the angels 
are purihed and enlightened in heaven . . . . . . 118 

Other sweet effects of the dark night of contemplation . . . . 122 

The last lines of the first stanza explained . . . . . . . . 129 

Explanation of the second stanza . . . . . . . . . . 132 

How the soul journeys securely in darkness .. .. .. 133 

The dim contemplation is secret . . . . . . . . . . 142 

How this secret wisdom is also a ladder . . . . . . . . 149 

The mystic ladder has ten degrees. . .. .. .. .. 152 


Of the other degrees. . .. .. .. .. .. .. 158 


The meaning of ' disguised.' The colours in which the soul dis- 
guises itself in this night .. .. .. .. .. 162 



The third line of the second stanza . . . , . . . . . . 169 


The wonderful hiding-place of the soul, which the devil cannot 

enter .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 170 

The last line of the second stanza .. .. .. .. .. 178 

Third stanza .. .. .. ,. ,. .. .. .. 181 









The stanzas to be explained are set forth at the beginning 
of this book, then an explanation of each severally, the 
stanza being placed before it. After that an explanation 
of each line, which is also set before the explanation. The 
first two stanzas explain the two spiritual purgations of the 
sensual and spiritual part of man, and the other six the 
various and admirable effects of the spiritual enlightenment 
and union of love with God. 



In a dark night, 

With anxious love inflamed, 

O, happy lot ! 

Forth unobserved I went, 

My house being now at rest. 

In darkness and in safety. 
By the secret ladder, disguised, 
O, happy lot ! 

In darkness and concealment, 
My house being now at rest, 


In that happy night. 
In secret, seen of none, 
Seeing nought myself, 
Without other Ught or guide 
Save that which in my heart was burning. 


That light guided me 

More surely than the noonday sun 

To the place where He was waiting for me, 

Whom I knew well, 

And where none appeared. 


O, guiding night ; 

O, night more lovely than the dawn ; 

O, night that hast united 

TheTover with His beloved. 

And changed her into her love. 


On my flowery bosom, 

Kept whole for Him alone. 

There He reposed and slept ; 

And I cherished Him, and the waving 

Of the cedars fanned Him. 


As His hair floated in the breeze 
That from the turret blew. 
He struck me on the neck 
With His gentle hand, 
And all sensation left me. 


I continued in oblivion lost, 
My head was resting on my love ; 
Lost to all things and myself, 
And, amid the hlies forgotten. 
Threw all my cares away. 



Before we enter on an explanation of these, it is right 
'we should understand that they are the words of the soul 
already in the state of perfection, which is the union, 
of love with God, when it has gone through the straits, 
tribulations and severities, by means of the spiritual 
training, of the strait way of everlasting life, by which 
ordinarily the soul attains to this high and divine union 
with God. Of it our Saviour says in the Gospel,* ' How 
narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to 
life, and few there are that find it.' This road being so 
strait, and they who find it being so few, the soul regards 
it as a great and joyful blessing that it has journeyed on 
it to the perfection of love, as it sings in the first stanza, 
very rightly calling the strait road, a dark night, as may 
be seen further on in the words of the stanza. The soul, 
therefore, rejoicing in that it has travelled on this strait 
road whereby so great a blessing has come to it, sings 
as follows. 

* S. Matt. vii. 14. 




In a dark night, 

With anxious love inflamed, 

O, happy lot ! 

Forth unobserved I went. 

My house being now at rest. 

In the first stanza the soul sings of the way and manner 
of its going forth, as to its affections, from self and all 
created things, dying thereto by real mortification, that 
it may live the life of love, sweet and delicious in God. 
It went forth, from itself and from all things, in a dark 
night, by which is meant here purgative contemplation 
— as I shall hereinafter explain* — which leads the soul 
to deny itself and all besides. This departure, it says, it 
was able to accomplish in the strength and fervour which 
the love of the Bridegroom supplied, in the obscure con- 
templation for that end. The soul magnifies its own 
happiness in having journeyed Godwards in that night 
so successfully as to escape all hindrance on the part of 
its three enemies — the world, the devil, and the flesh — 
which are always found infesting this road ; for the 
night of purgative contemplation had lulled to sleep and 
mortified, in the house of sensuality, all passions and 
desires, in their rebellious movements. 

* Ch. viii. 



Begins with the first stanza and treats of the imperfections 
of beginners. 

In a dark night. 

O OULS begin to enter the dark night when God is 
^-^ drawing them out of the state of beginners, which 
is that of those who meditate on the spiritual road, and 
is leading them into that of proficients, the state of con- 
templatives, that, having passed through it, they may- 
arrive at the state of the perfect, which is that of the 
divine union with God. That we may the better under- 
stand and explain the nature of this night through which 
the soul has to pass, and why God leads men into it, 
it may be well to touch first upon certain peculiarities of 
beginners, that they may perceive the weakness of the 
state they are in, take courage, and desire to be led of 
God into this night, where the soul is established in 
virtue and made strong for the inestimable delights of 
His love. Though I shall dwell at some length upon 
this point, I shall do so no longer than suffices for 
the immediate discussion of this dark night. 

2. We are to keep in mind that a soul, when seriously 
converted to the service of God, is, in general, spiritually 


nursed and caressed, as an infant by its loving mother, 
who warms it in her bosom, nourishes it with her own 
sweet milk, feeds it with tender and delicate food, carries 
it in her arms, and fondles it. But as the child grows up 
the mother withholds her caresses, hides her breasts, and 
anoints them with the juice of bitter aloes; she carries 
the infant in her arms no longer, but makes it walk on 
the ground, so that, losing the habits of an infant, it 
may apply itself to greater and more substantial pursuits. 

3. The grace of God,* like a loving mother, as soon 
as the soul is regenerated in the new fire and fervour of 
His service, treats it in the same way ; for it enables it, 
without labour on its own part, to find its spiritual milk, 
sweet and delicious, in all the things of God, and in 
devotional exercises great sweetness ; God giving it the 
breasts of His own tender love, as to a tender babe. 
Such souls, therefore, delight to spend many hours, and 
perhaps whole nights, in prayer ; their pleasures are 
penances, their joy is fasting, and their consolations lie 
in the use of the sacraments and in speaking of divine 

4. Now spiritual men generally, speaking spiritually, 
are extremely weak and imperfect here, though they 
apply themselves to devotion, and practise it with great 
resolution, earnestness, and care. For being drawn to 

* Sap. xvi. 25. — In omnia transfigurata omnium nutrici gratiae tua: 


these things and to their spiritual exercises by the 
comfort and satisfaction they find therein, and not yet 
confirmed in virtue by the struggle it demands, they fall 
into many errors and imperfections in their spiritual 
life ; for every man's work corresponds to the habit of 
perfection which he has acquired. These souls, therefore, 
not having had time to acquire those habits of vigour, 
must, of necessity, perform their acts, like children, 

5. To make this more clear, and to show how weak 
are beginners in virtue in those good works which they 
perform with so much ease and pleasure, I proceed to 
explain by reference to the seven capital sins, pointing 
out some of the imperfections into which beginners 
fall in the matter of each of them. This will show us 
plainly how like children they are in all they do, and 
also how great are the blessings of this dark night of 
which I am about to speak* ; seeing that it cleanses 
and purifies the soul from all these imperfections. 


Of some spiritual imperfections to which beginners are 
liable in the matter of pride. 

When beginners become aware of their own fervour 
and diligence in their spiritual works and devotional 

* Ch. xii. § 2. 


exercises, this prosperity of theirs gives rise to secret 
pride — though holy things tend of their own nature to 
humility — because of their imperfections ; and the issue 
is that they conceive a certain satisfaction in the con- 
templation of their works and of themselves. From 
the same source, too, proceeds that empty eagerness 
which they display, in speaking before others of the 
spiritual life, and sometimes as teachers rather than 
learners. They condemn others in their heart when 
they see that they are not devout in their way. Some- 
times also they say it in words, showing themselves 
herein to be like the Pharisee, who in the act of prayer 
boasted of his own works and despised the Publican.* 

2. Their fervour, and desire to do these and other 
works, is frequently fed by satan in order that they may 
grow in pride and presumption : he knows perfectly 
well that all their virtue and works are not only nothing 
worth, but rather tending to sin. Some of them go so 
far as to think none good but themselves, and so, at all 
times, both in word and deed fall into condemnation 
and detraction of others. They see the mote in the eye 
of their brother, but not the beam which is in their 
own.f They strain out the gnat in another man's cup, 
and swallow the camel in their own.+ 

3. Sometimes, also, when their spiritual masters, 
such as confessors and superiors, do not approve of 

* S. Luke xviii. ii, 12. j S. Matt. vii. 3. t lb. xxiii. 24. 


their spirit and conduct — for they wish to be praised 
and considered for what they do — they decide that they 
are not understood, and that their superiors are not 
spiritual men because they do not approve and sanction 
their proceedings. So they go about in quest of some 
one else, who will accommodate himself to their fancy ; 
for in general they love to discuss their spiritual state 
with those who, they think, will commend and respect 
it. They avoid, as they would death, those who destroy 
their delusion with the view of leading them into a safe 
way, and sometimes they even hate them. Presuming 
greatly on themselves, they make many resolutions, and 
accomplish little. They are occasionally desirous that 
others should perceive their spirituality and devotion, 
and for that end they give outward tokens by move- 
ments, sighs and divers ceremonies ; sometimes, too, 
they fall into certain trances in public rather than in 
private — whereunto satan contributes — and are pleased 
when others are witnesses of them. 

4. Many of them seek to be the favourites of their 
confessors, and the result is endless envy and dis- 
quietude. They are ashamed to confess their sins 
plainly, lest their confessors should think less of them, 
so they go about palliating them, that they may not 
seem so bad : which is excusing rather than accusing 
themselves. Sometimes they go to a stranger to con- 
fess their sin, that their usual confessor may think they 


are not sinners, but good people. And so they always 
take pleasure in telling him of their goodness, and that 
in terms suggestive of more than is in them : at the 
least, they wish all their goodness to be appreciated, 
when it would be greater humility on their part, as I 
shall presently show,* to undervalue it, and wish that 
neither their confessor nor anyone else should think 
it of the least importance. 

5. Some beginners, too, make light of their faults, 
and at other times indulge in immoderate grief when 
they commit them. They thought themselves already 
saints, and so they become angry and impatient with 
themselves, which is another great imperfection. They 
also importune God to deliver them from their faults 
and imperfections, but it is for the comfort of living in 
peace, unmolested by them, and not for God ; they do 
not consider that, were He to deliver them, they would 
become, perhaps, prouder than ever. They are great 
enemies of other men's praise, but great lovers of their 
own, and sometimes they seek it. In this respect they 
resemble the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps 
gave no light, went about in search of oil, saying : 
' Give us of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'t 

6. From these some go on to very serious imper- 
fections, and come to great harm thereby. Some, 
however, fall into them less than others, and some 

* § 7. 7 S. Matt. XXV. 8. 


have to contend with little more than the first move- 
ments of them. But scarcely anyone can be found who, 
in his first fervours, did not fall into some of them. 

7. But those who at this time are going on to 
perfection proceed in a very different way, and in a 
very different temper of mind : they grow and are built 
up in humility, not only looking on their own works as 
nothing, but also dissatisfied with themselves ; they 
look upon all others as much better, they regard them 
with a holy envy in their anxiety to serve God as they 
do. For the greater their fervour, the more numerous 
their good works ; and the keener the pleasure therein, 
the more they perceive — for they humble themselves — 
how much that is which God deserves at their hands, 
and how little is all they can do for Him : thus the 
m'ore they do, they less are they satisfied. 

8. So great is that which they in their love would 
fain do, that all they are doing seems nothing. This 
loving anxiety so importunes and fills them that they 
never consider whether others are doing good or not, 
and if they do, it is, as I have said, in the conviction 
that all others are much better than they are. They 
think little of themselves, and wish others to do so also, 
to make no account of them and despise their works. 
Moreover, if anyone should praise and respect them 
they will give them no credit, for they think it strange 
that anybody should speak well of them. 


9. They, in great tranquility and humility, are very 
desirous to learn the things that are profitable to them 
from anyone ; in this respect the very opposite of those 
of whom I have just spoken, who are willing to teach 
everybody ; and who, when anyone seems about to teach 
them anything, take the words out of his mouth, as if 
they knew it already. 

10. But they of whom I am now speaking are very 
far from wishing to instruct anyone ; they are most 
ready to travel by another road if they be but com- 
manded, for they never imagine that they can be right 
in anything. When others are praised they rejoice, 
and their only regret is that they do not serve God 
themselves as well as they. They have no wish to 
speak about their own state, for they think so lightly 
of it, that they are ashamed to speak of it to their own 
confessors ; it seems to them unworthy of any mention 
whatever. But they have a great desire to speak of 
their shortcomings and sins, or of that which they 
consider not to be virtue : thus they incline to treat 
of the affairs of their soul with those who have no great 
opinion of their state and spirit.* This is a characteristic 
of that spirituality which is pure, simple, true, and most 
pleasing unto God. For as the wise Spirit of God 
dwells in these humble souls, He moves and inclines 
them to keep His treasures secretly within, and to cast 

* See Life of St. Teresa, Relation vii. § ii. 


out the evil. For God gives this grace, together with 
the other virtues, to the humble, and withholds it from 
the proud. 

11. These will give their hearts' blood for him who 
serves God, and will help him to serve Him to the 
utmost of their powers. When they fall into any 
imperfection they bear up under it with humility, in 
meekness of spirit, in loving fear of God, and hoping 
in Him. But the souls who in the beginning travel 
thus towards perfection are, as I said,* few, yea, very 
few, and we ought to be content when they do not rush 
into the opposite evils. This is the reason, as I shall 
hereafter explain,! why God leads into the dark night 
those souls whom He will purify from all these im- 
perfections in order to their further progress. 


Of the imperfections into which some beginners are wont 

to fall, in the matter of the second capital sin, which is 

avarice, in the spiritual sense. 

Many a beginner also falls at times into great spiritual 
avarice. Scarcely anyone is contented with that measure 
of the spirit which God gives ; they are very disconsolate 
and querulous because they do not find the comfort they 
desire in spiritual things. IMany are never satisfied with 
listening to spiritual counsels and precepts, with reading 
* § 6. t Ch. viii. § 5. 


books which treat of their state ; and they spend more 
time in this than in doing their duty, having no regard 
to that mortification, and perfection of interior poverty 
of spirit to which they ought to apply themselves. 
Besides, they load themselves with images, rosaries, and 
crucifixes, curious and costly ; now taking up one, then 
another, now changing them, and then resuming them 
again. At one time they will have them of a certain 
fashion, at another time of another, prizing one more 
than another because more curious or costly. Some 
may be seen with an Agnus Dei, and with relics and 
medals, like children with coral, 

2. I condemn here that attachment and clinging ot 
the heart to the form, number, and variety of these 
things, because in direct opposition to poverty of spirit, 
which looks only to the substance of devotion ; which 
makes use indeed of these things, but only sufiiciently 
for the end, and disdains that variety and curiosity, for 
real devotion must spring out of the heart, and consider 
only the truth and substance which the objects in ques- 
tion represent. All beyond this is attachment and greed 
of imperfection ; he who will go on unto perfection, must 
root out that feeling utterly. 

3. I knew a person who for more than ten years used 
continually, without interruption, a cross rudely formed 
of a piece of blessed palm, and fastened together with a 
common pin bent backwards, until I took it away. This 


was a person not deficient in sense and understanding". 
I knew another who had a rosary made of the backbones 
of fish, and whose devotion, I am certain, was not on 
that account of less value in the eyes of God ; for it is 
clear that the cost or workmanship of these contributed 
nothing to it. 

4. Those beginners, therefore, who go on well, do not 
rely on visible instruments, neither do they burden 
themselves with them, nor do they seek to know more 
than is necessary for acting rightly ; their sole object is 
to be well with God and to please Him ; their avarice 
consists in that. With a noble generosity they give up 
all they possess ; and their delight is to be poor for the 
love of God and their neighbour, disposing of everything 
according to the laws of this virtue ; because, as I have 
said, their sole aim is real perfection, to please God in 
all things and themselves in nothing. 

5. The soul, however, cannot be perfectly purified 
from these imperfections, any more than from the others, 
until God shall have led it into the passive purgation of 
the dark night, of which I shall speak immediately 
But it is expedient that the soul, so far as it can, should 
labour, on its own part, to purify and perfect itself, that 
it may merit from God to be taken under His divine 
care, and be healed from those imperfections which of 
itself it cannot remedy. For, after all the eftbrts of the 

* Ch. viii. § 5. 


soul, it cannot by any exertions of its own actively 
purify itself so as to be in the slightest degree fit for the 
divine union of perfection in the love of God, if God 
Himself does not take it into His own hands and purify 
it in the fire, dark to the soul, in the way I am going- to 


Of other imperfections into which some beginners are wont 

to fall, in the matter of the third sin, which is luxury, 

spiritually understood. 

Many beginners fall into other imperfections, over and 
above those belonging to each capital sin of which I am 
speaking. I pass them by now, to avoid prolixity, and 
treat of some of the chiefest, which are, as it were, the 
source and origin of the rest. 

2. As to the sin of luxury, putting aside the com- 
mission of the sin — my object being to speak of those 
imperfections which have to be purged away in the dark 
night — beginners fall into many imperfections, which 
may be called spiritual luxury ; not that it is so in fact, 
but bec^luse it is felt and experienced sometimes in the 
flesh, because of its frailty, when the soul is the recipient 
of spiritual communications. For very often, in the 

f Bk. ii. ch. lo. 


midst of their spiritual exercises, and when they cannot 
help themselves, the impure movements of sensuality 
are felt ; and sometimes even when the mind is absorbed 
in prayer, or when they are receiving the sacraments of 
penance and the eucharist. These movements not being 
in their power, proceed from one of three sources. 

3. They proceed occasionally — though but rarely, 
and in persons of delicate constitutions — from sensible 
sweetness in spiritual things. For when sense and spirit 
are both delighted together, the whole nature of man is 
moved in that delectation according to its measure and 
character. For then the spirit, that is, the higher part 
of our nature is moved to delight itself in God ; and 
sensuality, which is the lower part, is moved towards 
sensible gratification, because it knows, and admits of, 
none other. And so it happens that the soul is in spirit 
praying, and on the other hand in the senses troubled, 
to its great disgust, with the rebellious movements of 
the flesh passively. But inasmuch as these two parts 
form but one subject, man, they ordinarily share in their 
respective passions, each in its own way ; for, as the 
philosopher tells us, all that is received is received 
according to the condition of the recipient. 

4, Thus in these beginnings, and even when the soul 
has made some progress, the sensual part, being still 
imperfect, when spiritual delight flows into the soul, 
mingles occasionally of its own therewith. But when 


the sensual part is already renewed in the purgation of 
the dark night, it is no longer subject to these infirmities, , 
because it receives so abundantly of the Spirit of God, 
that it seems rather to be received into that Spirit itself, I 
as into that which is greater and grander. Thus itT 
possesses everything according to the measure of the 
Spirit, in an admirable manner, of Whom it is a partaker^ 
united with God. 

5. The second source of these rebellious movements 
is satan, who, in order to disquiet the soul during prayer, 
or when preparing for it, causes these filthy movements 
of our lower nature, and these, when in any degree 
admitted, are injury enough. Some persons not only 
relax in their prayers through fear of these movements, 
which is the object of satan when he undertakes to assail 
them, but even abandon them altogether, for they 
imagine that they are more liable to these assaults 
during prayer than at other times. This is certainly 
true ; for the devil then assails them more than at other 
times, that they may cease from prayer. 

6. This is not all ; for he represents before them then, 
most vividly, the most foul and filthy images, and occa- 
sionally in close relation with certain spiritual things 
and persons, by whom their souls are profited, that he 
may terrify and crush them. Some are so grievously 
assailed that they dare not dwell upon anything, for it 
becomes at once a stumbling-block to them, especially 


those who are of a melancholy temperament ; these are 
so vehemently and eifectually assailed as to be objects 
of the deepest pity. When melancholy is the occasion 
of these visitations of satan, men in general cannot be 
delivered from them till their bodily health is improved, 
unless they shall have entered on the dark night which 
purifies them wholly. 

7. The third source of these depraved movements 
which war against the soul is usually the fear of them, 
for this fear which is brought about by a sudden remem- 
brance of them, in a look, a word, or thought, makes 
souls suffer from them, but without fault on their part. 

8. Sometimes, spiritual persons, when either speaking 
of spiritual things, or doing good works, display a certain 
energy and strength arising out of their consideration 
for persons present, and that with a certain measure of 
vain joy. This also proceeds from spiritual luxury in 
the sense in which I use the word, and is accompanied 

. at times by a certain complacency of the will. 

9. Some, too, form spiritual friendships with others, 
the source of which is luxury, and not spirituality. We 
may know it to be so by observing whether the remem- 
brance of that affection increases our recollection and 
love of God, or brings remorse of conscience. When 
this affection is purely spiritual, the love of God grows 
with it, and the more we think of it the more we think 
of God, and the greater our longing for Him ; for the 


one grows with the other. The spirit of God has this 
property, that it increases good by good, because there 
is a likeness and conformity between them. But when 
this affection springs out of the vice of sensuality, its 
effects are quite opposite ; for the more it grows, the 
more is the love of God diminished, and the remembrance 
of Him also ; for if this earthly love grows, that of God 
cools down ; the remembrance of that love brings forget- 
fulness of God and a certain remorse of conscience. 

10. On the other hand, if the love of God grows in 
the soul, the human love cools, and is forgotten ; for as 
they are contrary the one to the other, not only do they 
not help each other, but the one which predominates 
suppresses the other, and strengthens itself, as philo- 
sophers say. And so our Saviour tells us in the gospel, 
saying, ' that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that 
which is born of the spirit is spirit:'* that love which 
grows out of sensuality ends in the same, and that which 
is spiritual ends in the spirit of God, and makes it grow. 
This is the difference between these two loves, whereby 
we may know them. When the soul enters the dark 
night, these affections are ruled by reason ; that night 
strengthens and purifies the affection which is according 
to God, and removes, destroys, or mortifies the other. 
In the beginning both are by it put out of sight, as I 
shall explain hereafter. t 

* S. John iii. 6. f Ch. xiii. ii. 

CHAP, v.] OF THE SOUL. 21 


Of the imperfections of beginners in the matter of anger. 

Many beginners, because of their inordinate appetite 
for spiritual sweetness, generally fall into many imper- 
fections in the matter of anger ; for when spiritual 
things minister to them no more sweetness and delight, 
they naturally become peevish, and in that bitterness 
of spirit prove a burden to themselves in all they do : 
trifles make them angry, and they are at times in- 
tolerable to all about them. This happens generally 
after great sweetness in prayer ; and so, when that 
sensible sweetness is past, their natural temper is soured 
and rendered morose. They are like a babe weaned 
from the breast, which he found so sweet. When this 
natural feeling of displeasure is not permitted to grow, 
there is no sin, but only imperfection, which will have 
to be purged away in the severity and aridities of the 
dark night. 

2. There are other spiritual persons, too, among these 
who fall into another kind of spiritual anger. They are 
angry with other people for their faults, with a sore of 
unquiet zeal, and watch them ; they are occasionally 
moved to blame them, and even do so in anger, con- 
stituting themselves guardians of virtue. All this is 
contrary to spiritual meekness. 


3. Others, again, seeing their own imperfections, 
become angry with themselves with an impatience that 
is not humble. They are so impatient with their short- 
comings as if they would be saints in one day. Many 
of these make many and grand resolutions, but, being 
self-confident and not humble, the more they resolve, 
the more they fall, and the more angry they become ; 
not having the patience to wait for God's time ; this is 
also opposed to spiritual meekness. There is no perfect 
remedy for this but in the dark night. There are, 
however, some people who are so patient, and who 
advance so slowly in their spiritual progress, that God 
wishes they were not so patient. 


Of the imperfections in the matter of spiritual gluttony. 

There is much to say of the fourth capital sin, which 
is spiritual gluttony, for there is scarcely one among 
beginners, however good his progress, who, in the 
matter of this sin, does not fall into some of the many 
imperfections to which beginners are liable, because of 
that sweetness which in the beginning they find in 
spiritual exercises. 

2. Many beginners, delighting in the sweetness and 
joy of their spiritual occupations, strive after spiritual 
sweetness rather than after pure and true devotion, 


which is that which God regards and accepts in the 
whole course of the spiritual way. For this reason, 
over and above their imperfection in seeking after 
sweetness in devotion, that spirit of gluttony, which 
has taken possession of them, forces them to overstep 
the limits of moderation, within which virtue is acquired 
and consists. For allured by the delights they then 
experience, some of them kill themselves by penances, 
and others weaken themselves by fasting. They take 
upon themselves more than they can bear, without rule 
or advice ; they try to conceal their austerities from 
those whom they are bound to obey, and some even 
venture to practise them though commanded to abstain. 
These are full of imperfections — unreasonable people, 
who undervalue submission and obedience, which is the 
penance of the reason and judgment, and therefore a 
more acceptable and sweet sacrifice unto God than 
all the acts of bodily penance. Bodily penance is 
full of imperfections when the penance of the will is 
neglected, for men undertake it merely because they 
like it, and for the sweetness which they find in it. 

3. Inasmuch then as all extremes are vicious, and as 
in this course of conduct men follow their own will, the 
consequences are that they grow in vice and not in 
virtue ; at least they minister to their spiritual gluttony 
and pride, for they do not walk in the way of obedience. 
The devil so deceives many of them by exciting their 


gluttony through this sweetness which he increases, 
that, since they cannot obey, they either change, or 
vary, or add to, what is commanded them ; so hard and 
bitter is obedience become. The evil has so grown 
upon some, that they lose all desire to do their spiritual 
duties the instant obedience enjoins them ; because all 
their satisfaction consists in doing that which pleases 
them, and perhaps it would be better for them to leave 
it undone. 

4. Many of these importune their spiritual directors 
to allow them to do their own wnll : they extort that 
permission as if by force, and if it be refused, they mope 
like children, and become discontented, and think they 
are not serving God whenever they are thwarted. These 
persons clinging to sweetness and their own will, the 
moment they are contradicted, and directed according 
to the will of God, become fretful, fainthearted, and then 
fall away. They imagine that to please and satisfy 
themselves, is to serve and please God. 

5. Others also there are, who, by reason of this 
spiritual gluttony, are so ignorant of their own mean- 
ness and misery, and so insensible to that loving fear 
and reverence due to the majesty of God, that they are 
not afraid to insist on being allowed by their confessors 
to confess and communicate frequently. And what is 
much worse, they very often dare to communicate 
without the leave and sanction of the minister and 


Steward of Christ, purely out of their own head, and 
hide the truth from him. This eagerness for communion 
makes them confess carelessly, for they are more anxious 
to communicate anyhow than to communicate in pure- 
ness and perfection. It would be more profitable for 
them, and a holier course, to beg their confessors not to 
enjoin such frequent communions ; though the better 
way between these two extremes is to be humble and 
resigned. This excessive boldness leads to great evil, 
and men may well be in fear of chastisement for such 

6. These persons, when they communicate, strive 
with all their might for sensible sweetness, instead of 
worshipping in humility and praising God within them- 
selves. So much are they given to this, that they think 
when they derive no sensible sweetness, they have done 
nothing, so meanly do they think of God ; neither do 
they understand that the least of the blessings of the 
Most Holy Sacrament is that which touches the senses, 
and that the invisible grace It confers is far greater ; for 
God frequently withholds these sensible favours from 
men, that they may fix the eyes of faith upon Himself. 
But these persons will feel and taste God, as if He were 
palpable and accessible to them, not only in communion 
but in all their other acts of devotion. All this is a very 
great imperfection, and directly at variance with the 
nature of God, Who demands the purest faith. 


7- They conduct themselves in the same way when 
they are praying ; for they imagine that the whole 
business of prayer consists in sensible devotion, and this 
they strive to obtain with all their might, wearying out 
their brains and perplexing all the faculties of their souls. 
When they miss that sensible devotion, they are cast 
down, thinking they have done nothing. This effort 
after sweetness destroys true devotion and spirituality, 
which consist in perseverance in prayer with patience 
and humility, mistrusting self, solely to please God. 
Therefore, when they once miss sweetness in prayer, or 
in any other act of religion, they feel a sort of repugnance 
to resume it, and sometimes cease from it altogether. 

8. In this they are, as we said just now, like children 
who are not influenced by reason, but by their inclina- 
tions. They waste their time in the search after spiritual 
consolation, and are never satisfied with reading good 
books, taking up one meditation after another, in the 
pursuit of sensible sweetness in the things of God. God 
refuses it to them most justly, wisely, and lovingly, for if 
He did not, this spiritual gluttony on their part would 
grow into great evils. For this reason, it is most 
necessary that they should enter into the dark night, 
that they may be cleansed from this childishness. 

g. They who are bent on sensible sweetness, labour 
also under another very great imperfection : excessive 
weakness and remissness on the rugged road of the cross ; 


for the soul that is given to sweetness naturally sets its 
face against all the pain of self-denial. They labour 
under many other imperfections, which have their origin 
here, of which our Lord will heal them in due time, 
through temptations, aridities and trials, elements of the 
dark night. I will not enlarge upon them here, that I 
may avoid prolixity ; but this will I say, that spiritual 
soberness and temperance produce a far different temper, 
that of mortification, of fear and submission in all 
things ; showing us that the perfection and value of 
things consist not in the multitude thereof, but in our 
knowing how to deny ourselves in them. Spiritual men 
must labour after this with all their might, until it shall 
please God to purify them by leading them into the dark 
night. I hasten on with the description of these 
imperfections, that I may enter on the explanation of it. 


Of the imperfections in the matter of envy and spiritual sloth. 

Beginners are not free from many imperfections, in the 
matter of the two other vices, envy and spiritual sloth. 
Many of them are often vexed because of other men's 
goodness. They are sensibly afflicted when others out- 
strip them on the spiritual road, and will not endure to 
hear them praised. They become fretful over other 
men's virtues, and are sometimes unable to refrain from 


contradiction when they are commended ; they depreciate 
them as much as they can, and feel acutely because 
they themselves are not thought so well of, for they wish 
to be preferred above all others. This is most opposed 
to that charity of which S. Paul says, it 'rejoiceth with 
the truth.'* If charity admits of envy at all, it is a holy 
envy that makes us grieve that we have not the virtues 
that others have ; but still rejoicing that they have them, 
and glad that others outstrip us in the race that 
they may serve God, we being so full of imperfection 

2. As to spiritual sloth, beginners are wont to find 
their most spiritual occupations irksome, and avoid 
them as repugnant to their taste, for being so given to 
sweetness in spiritual things, they loathe them when 
they find none. If they miss once this sweetness in 
prayer which is their joy — it is expedient that God 
should deprive them of it in order to try them — they 
will not resume it ; at other times they omit it, or return 
to it with a bad grace. Thus, under the influence of 
sloth they neglect the way of perfection — which is the 
denial of their will and pleasure for God — for the 
gratification of their own will, which they serve rather 
than the will of God. 

3. Many of these will have it that God should will 
that which they will, and are afflicted when they must 

* I Cor. xiii. 6. 


will that which He wills, reluctantly submitting their 
own to the divine will. The result is that they 
frequently imagine that what is not according to their 
will is also not according to the will of God ; and, on 
the other hand, when they are pleased, they believe that 
God is pleased. They measure Him by themselves, and 
not themselves by Him, in direct contradiction to His 
teaching in the gospel ; ' He that shall lose his life for 
My sake, shall find it.'* That is, he who shall give up 
his will for God shall have it, and he who will have it, 
he shall have it never. 

4. They also find it wearisome to obey when they 
are commanded to do that which they like not ; and 
because they walk in the way of consolation and 
spiritual sweetness, they are too weak for the rough 
trials of perfection. They are like persons delicately 
nurtured who avoid with heavy hearts all that is hard 
and rugged, and are offended at the Cross wherein the 
joys of the spirit consist. The more spiritual the work 
they have to do, the more irksome do they feel it to be. 
And because they insist on having their own way and 
will in spiritual things, they enter on the ' strait way 
that leadeth unto life,'t of which Christ speaks, with 
repugnance and heaviness of heart. 

5. Let this reference to these imperfections among 
the many under which they labour, who are in the first 

* S. Matt. xvi. 25. t S. Matt. vii. 14. 


state of beginners, suffice to show them how necessary- 
it is for them that God should bring them to the state of 
proficients, which He effects when He leads them into 
the dark night of which we shall now speak. In that 
night He weans them from the breasts of sweetness, in 
pure aridities and interior darkness, cleanses them from 
all these imperfections and childish ways, and by ways 
most different, makes them grow in virtue. For after 
all the exertions of beginners to mortify themselves in 
their actions and passions, their success will not be 
perfect, or even great, until God Himself shall do it for 
them in the purgation of the dark night. May God be 
pleased to give me His light, that I may speak 
profitably of this ; for I have great need of it while 
treating of a night so dark and a subject so difficult. 


E)xplanation of the first line of the first stanza. ' Beginning 
of the explanation of the dark night.' 

* In a dark night.' This night — it is contemplation — 
produces in spiritual men two sorts of darkness or 
purgations comformable to the two divisions of man's 
nature into sensual and spiritual. Thus the first night, 
or sensual purgation, wherein the soul is purified or 
detached, will be of the senses, subjecting them to the 
spirit. The other is that night or spiritual purgation 


wherein the soul is purified and detached in the spirit, 
and which subdues and disposes it for union with God 
in love. The night of sense is common, and the lot of 
many : these are the beginners, of whom I shall first 
speak. The spiritual night is the portion of very few ; 
and they are those who have made some progress, 
'exercised therein, of whom I shall speak hereafter.* 

2. The first night, or purgation, is bitter and terrible 
to sense. The second is not to be compared with it, for 
it is much more awful to the spirit, as I shall soon 
show.t But as the night of sense is the first in order 
and the first to be entered, I shall speak of it briefly — 
for being of ordinary occurrence, it is the matter of 
many treatises — that I may pass on to treat more at 
large of the spiritual night ; for of that very little has 
been said, either by word of mouth or in writing, and 
little is known of it even by experience. 

3. But the behaviour of these beginners on the way of 
God is not noble, and very much according to their own 
liking and self-love, as I have said before.^ Meanwhile, 
God seeks to raise them higher, to draw them out of 
this miserable manner of loving to a higher state of the 
love of God, to deliver them from the low usage of the 
senses and meditation whereby they seek after God, as 
I said before,§ in ways so miserable and so unworthy of 
Him. He seeks to place them in the way of the spirit 

* Bk. ii. ch. i. f Bk. ii. ch. v. + Ch. i. § Ch. vi. § 7. 


wherein they may the more abundantly, and more free 
from imperfections, commune with God now that they 
have been for some time tried in the way of goodness, 
persevering in meditation and prayer, and because of 
the sweetness they found therein have withdrawn their 
affections from the things of this world, and gained a 
certain spiritual strength in God, whereby they in some 
measure curb their love of the creature, and are able for 
the love of God, to carry a slight burden of dryness, 
without going back to that more pleasant time when 
their spiritual exercises abounded in delights, and when 
the sun of the divine graces shone as they think, more 
clearly upon them. God is now changing that light 
into darkness, and sealing up the door of the fountain of 
the sweet spiritual waters, which they tasted in God as 
often and as long as they wished. For when they were 
weak and tender, this door was then not shut, as it is 
written, ' Behold, I have given before thee an opened 
door, which no man can shut ; because thou hast a little 
strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied 
My name.'* 

4. God thus leaves them in darkness so great that 
they know not whither to betake themselves with their 
imaginations and reflections of sense. They cannot 
advance a single step in meditation, as before, the 
inward sense now being overwhelmed in this night, and 

* Apoc. iii. 8. 


abandoned to dryness so great that they have no more 
any joy or sweetness in their spiritual exercises, as they 
had before ; and in their place they find nothing but 
insipidity and bitterness. For, as I said before,* God 
now, looking upon them as somewhat grown in grace, 
weans them from the breasts that they may become 
'strong, and cast their swaddling-clothes aside : He 
carries them in His arms no longer, and shows them 
how to walk alone. All this is strange to them, for all 
things seem to go against them. 

5. Recollected persons enter the dark night sooner 
than others, after they have begun their spiritual course ; 
because they are kept at a greater distance from the 
occasions of falling away, and because they correct more 
quickly their worldly desires, which is necessary in order 
to begin to enter the blessed night of sense. In general, 
there elapses no great length of time after they have 
begun before they enter the night of sense, and most of 
them do enter it, for they generally suffer aridities. The 
Holy Scriptures throughout, but especially the Psalms 
and the prophetical books, furnish many illustrations of 
the night of sense, for it is so common ; but, to avoid 
prolixity, I omit them for the present, though I shall 
make use of some of them later on. 

* Ch. i. ^ 




Of the signs by which it may be known that the spiritual 
man is walking in the way of this night or purgation 

of sense. 

But as these aridities frequently proceed, not from this 

night and purgation of the sensitive appetite, but from 

sins or imperfections, from weakness or lukewarmness, 

from some physical derangement or bodily indisposition, 

I shall here propose certain tests by which we may 

ascertain whether a particular aridity proceeds from the 

purgation of sense, or from any one of the vices I have 

just enumerated. There are three chief tests for this 

purpose : 

2. The first is this : when we find no comfort in the 

things of God, and none also in created things. For 

when God brings the soul into the dark night in order 

to wean it from sweetness and to purge the desire of 

sense, He does not allow it to find sweetness or comfort 

anywhere. It is then probable, in such a case, that this 

dryness is not the result of sins or of imperfections 

recently committed ; for if it were, we should feel some 

inclination or desire for other things than those of God. 

Whenever we give the reins to our desires in the way of 

any imperfection, our desires are instantly attracted to 

it, much or little, in proportion to the affection for it. 

But still, inasmuch as this absence of pleasure in the 

things of heaven and of earth may proceed from bodily 


indisposition or a melancholy temperament, which 
frequently cause dissatisfaction with all things, the 
second test and condition become necessary. 

3. The second test and condition of this purgation 
are that the memory dwells ordinarily upon God with a 
painful anxiety and carefulness, the soul thinks it is not 
serving God, but going backwards, because it is no 
longer conscious of any sweetness in the things of God. 
In that case it is clear that this weariness of spirit 
and aridity are not the results of weakness and 
lukewarmness ; for the peculiarity of lukewarmness is 
the want of earnestness in, and of interior solicitude for, 
the things of God. 

4. There is, therefore, a great difference between 
dryness and lukewarmness, for the latter consists in 
great remissness and weakness of will and spirit, in the 
want of all solicitude about serving God. The true 
purgative aridity is accompanied in general by a 
painful anxiety, because the soul thinks that it is not 
serving God. Though this be occasionally increased 
by melancholy or other infirmity — so it sometimes 
happens — yet it is not for that reason without its 
purgative effects on the desires, because the soul is 
deprived of all sweetness, and its sole anxieties are 
referred to God. For when mere bodily indisposition is 
the cause, all that it does is to produce disgust and the 
ruin of bodily health, without the desire of serving God 


which belongs to the purgative aridity. In this aridity, 
though the sensual part of man be greatly depressed, 
weak and sluggish in good works, by reason of the little 
satisfaction they furnish, the spirit is, nevertheless, 
ready and strong. 

5. The cause of this dryness is that God is trans- 
ferring to the spirit the goods and energies of the senses, 
which, having no natural fitness for them, become dry, 
parched up, and empty ; for the sensual nature of man 
is helpless in those things which belong to the spirit 
simply. Thus the spirit having been tasted, the flesh 
becomes weak and remiss ; but the spirit, having 
received its proper nourishment, becomes strong, more 
vigilant and careful than before, lest there should be 
any negligence in serving God. At first it is not 
conscious of any spiritual sweetness and delight, but 
rather of aridities and distaste, because of the novelty 
of the change. The palate accustomed to sensible 
sweetness looks for it still. And because the spiritual 
palate is not prepared and purified for so delicious a 
taste until it shall have been for some time disposed for 
it in this arid and dark night, it cannot taste of the 
spiritual good, but rather of aridity and distaste, because 
it misses that which it enjoyed so easily before. 

6. These, whom God begins to lead through the 
solitudes of the wilderness, are like the children of 
Israel, who, though God began to feed them, as soon as 


they were in the wilderness, with the manna of heaven, 
which was so sweet that as it is written, it turned to 
what every man liked,* were more sensible to the loss 
of the onions and flesh of Egypt — for they liked 
them and had revelled in them — than to the delicious 
sweetness of the angelical food. So they wept and 
bewailed the flesh-pots of Egypt, saying, ' We remem- 
ber the fish that we ate in Egypt free-cost ; the 
cucumbers come into our mind, and the melons, and the 
leeks, and the onions, and the garlic' t Our appetite 
becomes so depraved that we long for miserable trifles, 
and loathe the priceless gifts of heaven, 

7. But when these aridities arise in the purgative 
way of the sensual appetite, the spirit though at first 
without any sweetness, for the reasons I have given, is 
conscious of strength and energy to act because of the 
substantial nature of its interior food, which is the 
commencement of contemplation, dim and dry to the 
senses. This contemplation is in general secret, and 
unknown to him who is admitted into it, and with the 
aridity and emptiness which it produces in the senses, 
it makes the soul long for solitude and quiet, without 
the power of reflecting on anything distinctly, or even 
desiring to do so. 

8. Now, if they who are in this state knew how to be 
quiet, to disregard every interior and exterior work, — 

* Exod. xvi. 15, Wisd. xvi. 21. f Numb. xi. 5. 


for the accomplishment of which they labour, — to 
be without solicitude about everything, and resign 
themselves into the hands of God, with a loving interior 
obedience to His voice, they would have, in this 
tranquillity, a most delicious sense of this interior food. 
This food is so delicate that, in general, it eludes our 
perceptions if we make any special effort to feel it, for, 
as I am saying, it does its work when the soul is most 
tranquil and free ; it is like the air which vanishes when 
we shut our hands to grasp it. 

9. The words of the bridegroom which, addressed to 
the bride, in the Canticles, are applicable to this matter : 
* Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have made me 
flee away.'* For this is God's way of bringing the soul 
into this state ; the road by which He leads it is so 
different from the first, that if it will do anything in its 
own strength, it will hinder rather than aid His work. 
It was far otherwise once. 

10. The reason is this : God is now working in the 
soul, in the state of contemplation, that is, when it 
advances from meditation to the state of proficients, in 
such a way as to seem to have bound up all the interior 
faculties, leaving no help in the understanding, no 
sweetness in the will, no reflections in the memory. 
Therefore, at this time, all that the soul can do of itself 
ends, as I have said, in disturbing the peace and the 

* Cant. vi. 4. 


work of God in the spirit amid the dryness of sense. 
This peace, being spiritual and delicate, effects a work 
that is quiet and delicate, pacific and utterly alien from 
the former delights, which were most gross and sensual. 
This is that peace, according to the Psalmist, which 
God speaks in the soul to make it spiritual. * He will 
'speak peace upon His people.'* This brings us to the 
third test. 

11. The third sign we have for ascertaining whether 
this dryness be the purgation of sense, is inability to 
meditate and make reflections, and to excite the 
imagination, as before, notwithstanding all the efforts 
we may make ; for God begins now to communicate 
Himself, no longer through the channel of sense, as 
formerly, in consecutive reflections, by which we 
arranged and divided our knowledge, but in pure spirit, 
which admits not of successive reflections, and 
in the act of pure contemplation, to which neither the 
interior nor the exterior senses of our lower nature can 
ascend. Hence it is that the fancy and the imagination 
cannot help or suggest any reflections, nor use them ever 

12. It is understood here that this embarrassment 
and dissatisfaction of the senses do not arise out of 
any bodily ailment. When they arise from this, the 
indisposition, which is always changeable, having 

* Ps. Ixxxiv. 9. 


ceased, the powers of the soul recover their former 
energies, and find their previous satisfactions at once. 
It is otherwise in the purgation of the appetite, for as 
soon as we enter upon this, the inability to make our 
meditations continually grows. It is true that this 
purgation at first, is not continuous in some persons, for 
they are not altogether without sensible sweetness and 
comfort —their weakness renders their rapid weaning 
inexpedient — nevertheless, it grows upon them more 
and more, and the operations of sense diminish ; if they 
are going on to perfection. They, however, who are 
not walking in the way of contemplation, meet v/ith a 
very different treatment, for the night of aridities is not 
continuous with them, they are sometimes in it, and 
sometimes not ; they are at one time unable to meditate, 
and at another able as before. 

13. God leads these persons into this night only to 
try them and to humble them, and to correct their 
desires, that they may not grow up spiritual gluttons, 
and not for the purpose of leading them into the way of 
the spirit, which is contemplation. God does not raise 
to perfect contemplation everyone that is tried in the 
way of the spirit, and He alone knoweth why. Hence 
it is that these persons are never wholly weaned from 
the breasts of meditations and reflections, but only, as I 
have said, at intervals and at certain seasons. 



How they are to conduct themselves who have entered the 

dark night. 

During the aridities, then, of the night of sense — when 
God effects the change of which I have spoken,* drawing 
the soul out of the way of sense into that of the spirit, 
from meditation to contemplation, where it is helpless in 
the things of God, so far as its own powers are concerned, 
as I have said.f — spiritual persons have to endure great 
afflictions, not so much because of aridity, but because 
they are afraid that they will be lost on this road ; 
thinking that they are spiritually ruined, and that God 
has forsaken them, because they find no help or 
consolation in holy things. Under these circumstances, 
they weary themselves, and strive, as they were wont, 
to fix the powers of the soul with some satisfaction upon 
some matter of meditation, imagining when they cannot 
do this, and are conscious of the effort, that they are 
doing nothing. This they do not without great dislike 
and inward unwillingness on the part of the soul, which 
enjoys its state of quietness and rest. 

2. In thus turning away from this state they make 
no progress in the other, because, by exerting their own 
spirit, they lose that spirit which they had, that of 
tranquillity and peace. They are like a man who does 
his work over again ; or who goes out of a city that he 

* Ch. ix., § 5. t Ch. viii., § 4. 


may enter it once more ; or who lets go what he has 
caught in hunting that he may hunt it again. Their 
labour is in vain ; for they will find nothing, and that 
because they are turning back to their former ways, as I 
have said already.* 

3. Under these circumstances, if they meet with no 
one who understands the matter, these persons fall away, 
and abandon the right road ; or become weak, or at 
least put hindrances in the way of their further advance- 
ment, because of the great efforts they make to proceed 
in their former way of meditation, fatiguing their natural 
powers beyond measure. They think that their state is 
the result of negligence or of sin. All their own efforts 
are now in vain, because God is leading them by another 
and a very different road, that of contemplation. Their 
first road was that of discursive reflection, but the second 
knows no imagination or reasoning. 

4. It behoves those who find themselves in this 
condition to take courage, and persevere in patience. 
Let them not afflict themselves, but put their confidence 
in God, who never forsakes those who seek Him with a 
pure and upright heart. Neither will He withhold from 
them all that is necessary for them on this road until He 
brings them to the clear and pure light of love, which 
He will show them in that other dark night of the spirit, 
if they shall merit an entrance into it. 

* Ascent of Mount Carmel, bk. ii., ch. xii. § 10. 


5. The conduct to be observed in the night of sense 
is this : in nowise have recourse to meditations, for, as I 
have said, the time is now past, let the soul be quiet and 
at rest, though they may think they are doing nothing, 
that they are losing time, and that their lukewarmness 
is the reason of their unwillingness to employ their 
thoughts. They will do enough if they keep patience, 
and persevere in prayer; all they have to do is to keep 
their soul free, unembarrassed, and at rest from all 
thoughts and all knowledge, not anxious about their 
meditation, contenting themselves simply with directing 
their attention lovingly and calmly towards God ; and 
all this without anxiety or effort, or immoderate desire 
to feel and taste His presence. For all such efforts 
disquiet the soul, and distract it from the calm repose 
and sweet tranquillity of contemplation to which they 
are now admitted. 

6. And though they may have many scruples that 
they are wasting time, and that it may be better for 
them to betake themselves to some other good work, 
seeing that in prayer and meditation they are become 
helpless ; yet let them be patient with themselves, and 
remain quiet, for that which they are uneasy about is 
their own satisfaction and liberty of spirit. If they were 
now to exert their interior faculties, they would simply 
hinder and ruin the good which, in that repose, God is 
working in the soul ; for if a man while sitting for his 


portrait cannot be still, but moves about, the painter will 
never depict his face, and even the work already done 
will be spoiled. 

7. In the same way when the soul interiorly rests, 
every action and passion, or anxious consideration at 
that time, will distract and disturb it, and make it feel 
the dryness and emptiness of sense. The more it strives 
to find help in affections and knowledge, the more will 
it feel the deficiency which cannot now be supplied 
in that way. It is therefore expedient for the soul 
which is in this condition not to be troubled because its 
faculties have become useless, yea, rather it should desire 
that they may become so quickly ; for by not hindering 
the operation of infused contemplation, to which God is 
now admitting it, the soul is refreshed in peaceful 
abundance, and set on fire with the spirit of love, which 
this contemplation, dim and secret, induces and 
establishes within it. 

8. Still, I do not mean to lay down a general rule for 
the cessation from meditation ; that should occur when 
meditation is no longer feasible, and only then, when 
our Lord, either in the way of purgation and affliction, 
or of the most perfect contemplation, shall make it 
impossible. At other times, and on other occasions, this 
help must be had recourse to, namely, meditation on the 
life and passion of Christ, which is the best means of 
purification and of patience and of security on the road. 


and an admirable aid to the highest contemplation. 
Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, 
and loving infusion of God, which, if admitted, will set 
the soul on fire with the spirit of love, as I shall show 
in the explanation of the following verse. 



JVith anxious love inflamed. 

The burning fire of love, in general, is not felt at first, 
for it has not begun to burn, either because of our 
natural impurity, or because the soul, not understanding 
its own state, has not given it, as I have said,* a 
peaceful rest within. Sometimes, however, whether it 
be so or not, a certain longing after God begins to be 
felt ; and the more it grows, the more the soul feels 
itself touched and inflamed with the love of God, 
without knowing or understanding how or whence that 
love comes, except that at times this burning so inflames 
it that it longs earnestly after God. David in this night 
said of himself, ' My heart is inflamed, and my reins are 
changed, and I am brought to nothing, and knew not.'t 
That is, * my heart hath been inflamed' in the love of 
contemplation ; ' my reins,' that is, my tastes and 
affections also, have been changed from the sensual to 

* Ascent of Mount Carmel, bk. ii., ch. 13, § 4. 
■j- Ps. Ixxii. 21, 22. 


the spiritual way by this holy dryness, and in my denial 
of them, and ' I am brought to nothing, and I knew not.' 
The soul, as I have just said, not knowing the way it 
goeth, sees itself brought to nothing as to all things of 
heaven and earth, wherein it delighted before, and on 
fire with love, not knowing how. 

2. And because occasionally this fire of love grows 
in the spirit greatly, the longings of the soul for God 
are so deep that the very bones seem to dry up in that 
thirst, the bodily health to wither, the natural warmth 
and energies to perish in the intensity of that thirst of 
love. The soul feels it to be a living thirst. So was it 
with David when he said, * My soul hath thirsted after 
God, the strong, living.'* It is as if he had said, the 
thirst of my soul is a living thirst. We may say of this 
thirst, that being a living thirst, it kills. Though this 
thirst is not continuously, but only occasionally, violent, 
nevertheless it is always felt in some degree. 

3. I commenced by observing that this love, in 
general, is not felt at first, but only the dryness and 
emptiness of which I am speaking ; and then, instead of 
love, which is afterwards enkindled, what the soul feels 
in the dryness and the emptiness of its faculties is a 
general painful anxiety about God, and a certain painful 
misgiving that it is not serving Him. But a soul anxious 
and afflicted for His sake, is a sacrifice not a little 

* Ps. xli. ^. 


pleasing unto God. Secret contemplation keeps the 
soul in this state of anxiety, until, in the course ot time, 
having purged the sensual nature of man, in some degree, 
of its natural forces and affections by means of the 
aridities it occasions, it shall have kindled within it this 
divine love. But in the meantime, like a sick man in 
the hands of his physician, all it has to do, in the dark 
night and dry purgation of the desire, is to suffer, 
healing its many imperfections and practising many 
virtues, that it may become meet for the divine love, of 
which I shall speak while explaining the following line : 

O happy lot [ 

4. When God establishes the soul in the dark night 
of sense, that He may purify, prepare, and subdue its 
lower nature, and unite it to the spirit, by depriving it of 
light, and causing it to cease from meditation — as He 
afterwards establishes it also in the spiritual night, that 
He may purify the spirit, and prepare it for union with 
Himself — the soul makes a gain so great, though it does 
not think so, that it looks upon it as great happiness to 
have escaped from the bondage of the senses of its lower 
nature in that happy night, and therefore it sings — ' O 
happy lot ! ' 

5. It is necessary now for us to point out the benefits 
which accrue to the soul in this night, and for the sake of 
which it pronounces itself happy in having passed 


through it. All these benefits are comprised in these 
words : 

Forth unobserved I went. 

6. This going forth of the soul is to be understood of 
that subjection to sense under which it laboured when it 
was seeking after God in weak, narrow, and fitful ways, 
for such are the ways of man's lower nature. It then 
fell at every step into a thousand imperfections and 
ignorances, as I showed while speaking of the seven 
capital sins, from all of which the spiritual man is 
delivered in the dark night which quenches all desire in 
all things whatsoever, and deprives him of all his lights 
in meditation, and brings with it other innumerable 
blessings in the acquirement of virtue, as I shall now 

7. It will be a great joy and comfort to him who 
travels on this road, to observe how that which seemed 
so rugged and harsh, so contrary to spiritual sweetness, 
works in him so great a good. This good flows from 
going forth, as I am saying, as to all affections and 
operations of the soul, from all created things, in this 
night, and journeying towards those which are eternal, 
which is a great happiness and a great good. In the 
first place, because the desires are extinguished in all 
things ; and in the second place, because they are few 
who persevere and enter in through the narrow gate, by 


the strait way that leadeth to life : ' How narrow is the 
gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life, and few 
there are that find it ! '* are words of our Lord. 

8. The narrow gate is this night of sense. The soul 
detaches itself from sense that it may enter on it, 
directing itself by faith, which is a stranger to all sense, 
that it may afterwards travel along the strait road of the 
other night of the spirit, by which it advances towards 
God in most pure faith, which is the means of union with 
Him. This road, because so strait, dark, and terrible — 
for there is no comparison, as I shall show,t between its 
trials and darkness and those of the night of sense — is 
travelled by very few, but its blessings are so much the 
more. I shall begin now to say somewhat, with the 
utmost brevity, of the blessings of the night of sense, 
that I may pass on to the other. 


Of the benefits which the night of sense brings to the soul. 

This night and purgation of the appetite is full of 
happiness to the soul, involving grand benefits, though, 
as I have said,+ it seems to it as if all were lost. As 
Abraham made a great feast on the day of Isaac's 
weaning,§ so there is joy in heaven when God takes a 
soul out of its swaddling clothes ; when He takes His 

* S. Matt. vii. 14. f Bk. ii. ch. xii. t Ch. x. § 3. § Gen. xxi. S. 



arms from under it, and makes it walk alone ; when He 
denies it the sweet milk of the breast and the delicate 
food of children, and gives it bread with the crust to eat ; 
when it begins to taste the bread of the strong, which, in 
the aridities and darkness of sense, is given to the spirit 
emptied and dried of all sensible sweetness ; namely, the 
bread of infused contemplation, of which I have spoken.* 
This is the first and chief benefit which the soul gains 
here, and from which almost all the others flow. 

2. Of these, the first is the knowledge of self and its 
own vileness. For over and above that those graces 
which God bestows on the soul, are ordinarily included 
in this knowledge of self, these aridities and the 
emptiness of the faculties as to their former abounding, 
and the difficulty which good works present, bring the 
soul to a knowledge of its own vileness and misery, 
which in the season of prosperity it saw not. This truth 
is vividly shadowed forth in the book of Exodus. There 
we read that God, about to humble the children of 
Israel and bring them to a knowledge of themselves, 
commanded them to lay aside their ornaments and 
festival attire, which they ordinarily wore in the 
wilderness, saying,t ' Now, lay aside thy ornaments ; " 
that is, lay aside thy festival attire, and put on thy 
working dress, that thou mayest know what treatment 
thou hast deserved. 

* Cb. vii. § 8. f Exod. xxxiii. 5. 


3. It is as if He said to the people : ' Inasmuch as 
the ornaments you wear, being those of joy and festivity, 
are the cause why you think not meanly of yourselves — 
you really are mean — lay them aside ; so that henceforth 
clad in vile garments, you may acknowledge that you 
deserve nothing better, and also who and what you are. 

4. Hereby the soul learns the reality of its own. 
misery, which before it knew not. For in the day of 
festivity when it found great sweetness, comfort, and 
help in God, it was highly satisfied and pleased, thinking 
that it rendered some service to God. For though it 
may not then explicitly say so, yet, on account of the 
satisfaction it finds, it is not wholly free from feeling it. 
But when it has put on the garments of heaviness, of 
aridity and abandonment, when its previous lights have 
become darkness, it possesses and retains more truly 
that excellent and necessary virtue of self-knowledge, 
counting itself for nothing, and having no satisfaction in 
itself, because it sees that of itself it does and can do 

5. This diminished satisfaction with self, and the 
affliction it feels because it thinks that it is not serving 
God, God esteems more highly than all its former 
delights and all its good works, however great they 
may have been ; for they were occasions of many 
imperfections and ignorances. But in this garb of 
aridity, not only these, of which I am speaking, but 


Other benefits also of which I shall presently speak, and 
many more than I can speak of, flow as from their 
proper source and fount, that of self-knowledge. 

6. In the first place, the soul learns to commune with 
God with more respect and reverence ; always necessary 
in converse with the Most High. Now% in its prosperous 
days of sweetness and consolation, the soul was less 
observant of reverence, for the favours it then received, 
rendered the desire somewhat bold with God, and less 
reverent than it should have been. Thus it was with 
Moses, when he heard the voice of God ; for carried away 
by the delight he felt, he was venturing, without further 
consideration, to draw near, if God had not commanded 
him to .'-top, and put off his shoes, saying, * Come not 
nigh hither; put off the shoes from thy feet.'* This 
teaches us how reverently and discreetly in spiritual 
detachment we are to converse with God. When Moses 
had become obedient to the voice, he remained so 
reverent and considerate, that not only did he not venture 
to draw near, but, in the words of Scripture, ' durst not 
look at God.'t For having put off the shoes of desire 
and sweetness, he recognised profoundly his own 
wretchedness in the sight of God, for so it became him 
when about to listen to the words of God. 

7. The condition to which God brought Job in order 
that he might converse with God, was not that of delight 

* Exod. iii. 5. f lb. 6. 


and bliss, of which he there speaks, and to which he had 
been accustomed, God left him in misery, naked on a 
dung-hill, abandoned and even persecuted by his friends, 
filled with bitterness and grief, covered with worms : * 
then it was that the Most High, Who lifteth up 'the 
poor out of the dung-hill,' f was pleased to communicate 
Himself to Job in greater abundance and sweetness, 
revealing to him ' the deep mysteries of His wisdom, '+ 
as He had never done before in the days of Job's 

8. And now that I have to speak of it, I must here 
point out another great benefit of the dark night and 
aridity of the sensual appetite ; the fulfilment of the 
words of the prophet, ' Thy light shall rise up in 
darkness,'§ God enlightens the soul, making it see not 
only its own misery and meanness, as I have said, but 
also His grandeur and majesty. When the desires are 
quelled, and sensible joy and consolation withdrawn, the 
understanding remains free and clear for the reception 
of the truth, for sensible joy and the desire even of 
spiritual things darken and perplex the mind, but the 
trials and aridities of sense also enlighten and quicken 
the understanding in the words of Isaias,|| 'Vexa- 
tion alone shall give understanding in the hearing.' 
Vexation shall make us understand how God in His 

* Job. ii. 8 ; xxx. 17, iS. f Ps. cxii. 7. I Job xxxviii. 

§ Is. Iviii. 10. II Is. xxviii. 19. 


divine wisdom proceeds to instruct a soul, emptied and 
cleansed — for such it must be before it can be the 
recipient of the divine inflowing — in a supernatural way, 
in the dark and arid night of contemplation, which He 
did not do, because it was given up to its former sweet- 
ness and joy. 

9. The same prophet Isaias sets this truth before us 
with great clearness, saying, * Whom shall he teach 
knowledge r and whom shall he make to understand the 
thing heard r Them that are weaned from the milk, that 
are plucked away from the breasts.'* The temper of 
mind, then, meet for the divine inflowing is not so much 
the milk of spiritual sweetness, nor the breasts of sweet 
reflections in the powers of sense, which the soul once 
had, as a failure of the first and withdrawal from the 
other. Therefore, if we would listen to the voice of the 
great King with due reverence, the soul must stand 
upright, and not lean on the affections of sense for 
support. As the prophet Habacuc said of himself, * I 
will stand upon my watch, and fix my step upon the 
munition, and I will behold to see what may be said to 
me.'f To stand upon the watch, is to cast off all desires ; 
to fix the step, is to cease from reflections of sense, that 
I may behold and understand what God will speak to me. 
Thus out of this night springs first the knowledge of 
one's self, and on that, as on a foundation, is built up the 

* Is. 9. t Habac. ii. i. 


knowledge of God. ' Let me know myself,' saith St. 
Augustin, * and I shall then know Thee, O my God,' for, 
as the philosophers say, one extreme is known by 

10. In order to show more fully how effectual is the 
night of sense, in its aridity and desolation, to enlighten 
the soul more and more, I produce here the words of the 
Psalmist, which so clearly explain how greatly efficacious 
is this night in bringing forth the knowledge of God : 
* In a desert land, and inaccessible, and without water ; 
so in the holy have I appeared to Thee, that I might see 
Thy strength and Thy glory.'* The Psalmist does not 
say here — and it is worthy of observation — that his 
previous sweetness and delight were any dispositions or 
means whereby he might come to the knowledge of the 
glory of God, but rather that aridity and emptying of 
the powers of sense spoken of here as the barren and 
dry land. 

1 1. Moreover, he does not say that his reflections and 
meditations on divine things, with which he was 
once familiar, had led him to the knowledg'e and 
contemplation of God's power, but, rather, his inability 
to meditate on God, to form reflections by the help of 
his imagination ; that is the inaccessible land. The 
means, therefore, of attaining to the knowledge of God, 
and of ourselves, is the dark night with all its aridities 

* Ps. Ixii. 3. 


and emptiness ; though not in the fulness and abundance 
of the other night of the spirit : for the knowledge that 
comes by this is, as it were, the beginning of the other. 

12. Amid the aridities and emptiness of this night ot 
the desires, the soul acquires also spiritual humility, 
which is the virtue opposed to the first capital sin, which, 
I said,* is spiritual pride. The humility acquired by 
self-knowledge purifies the soul from all the im- 
perfections into which it fell in the day of its prosperity. 
For now, seeing itself so parched and miserable, it does 
not enter into its thoughts, even for a moment, to 
consider itself better then others, or that it has 
outstripped them on the spiritual road, as it did before ; 
on the contrary, it acknowledges that others are 

13. Out of this grows the love of our neighbour, for 
it now esteems them, and no longer judges them as it 
used to do, when it looked upon itself as exceedingly 
fervent, and upon others as not. Now it sees nothing 
but its own misery, which it keeps so constantly before 
its eyes that it can look upon nothing else. This state 
is admirably shown by David himself, when in this dark 
night, saying, ' I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept 
silence from good things, and my sorrow was renewed.'! 
All the good of his soul seemed to him so mean that he 
could not speak of it ; he was silent as to the good of 

* Ch. ii. t P^- xxxviii. 3. 


Others, because of the pain of the knowledge of his own 

14. In this state, too, men are submissive and 
obedient in the spiritual way, for when they see their 
own wretchedness they not only li'sten to instruction, 
but desire to have it from any one who will guide their 
steps and tell them what they ought to do. That 
presumption which sometimes possessed them in their 
prosperity is now gone ; and, finally, all those im- 
perfections are swept clean away to which I referred 
when I was treating of spiritual pride. 


Of other benefits which the night of sense brings to 

the soul. 

The imperfections of spiritual avarice, under the 
influence of which the soul coveted this and that 
spiritual good, and was never satisfied with this or that 
practice of devotion, because of its eagerness for the 
sweetness it found therein, become now, in this arid and 
dark night, sufficiently corrected. For when the soul 
finds no sweetness and delight, as it was wont to do, in 
spiritual things, but rather bitterness and vexation, it 
has recourse to them with such moderation as to lose 
now, perhaps, through defect, what it lost before, through 
excess. Though, in general, to those who are brought 


to this night, God gives humility and readiness, but 
without sweetness, in order that they may obey Him 
solely through love. Thus they detach themselves from 
many things, because they find no sweetness in them. 

2. The soul is p'urified, also, from those impurities ot 
spiritual luxury of which I have spoken before,* in this 
aridity and bitterness of sense which it now finds in 
spiritual things ; for those impurities are commonly said 
to proceed generally from the sweetness which flowed 
occasionally from the spirit into the sense. 

3. The imperfections of the fourth sin, spiritual 
gluttony, from which the soul is delivered in the dark 
night, have been discussed in a former chapter, fthough 
not all, because they cannot be numbered. Nor shall I 
speak of them here, for I wish to conclude the subject of 
this night, that I may pass on to the other, with regard 
to which I have serious things to write. Let it suffice 
for a knowledge of the innumerable advantages which 
the soul, in addition to those already mentioned, gains, 
in this night, wherewith to resist spiritual gluttony, to 
say that it is set free from the imperfections there 
enumerated, and from many other and greater evils than 
those described, into which many fall, as we learn by 
experience, because they have not corrected their desires 
in the matter of spiritual gluttony. 

4. For when God has brought the soul into this 

* Ch. iv. f Ch. vi. 


arid and dark night, He so curbs desire and bridles 
concupiscence that it can scarcely feed at all upon the 
sensible sweetness of heavenly or of earthly things, and 
this so continuously that it corrects, mortifies, and 
controls its concupiscence and desires, so that the 
forces of its passions seem to be destroyed. Marvellous 
benefits flow from that spiritual soberness, in addition 
to those I have mentioned ; for because it mortifies 
concupiscence and desire, the soul dwells in spiritual 
tranquillity and peace ; for, where concupiscence and 
desire have no sway, there is no trouble, but, rather, 
the peace and consolation of God. 

5. Another benefit comes from this ; a constant 
remembrance of God, with the fear and dread that it is, 
as I have said,* going back on the spiritual way. This 
is a great benefit, and not one of the least, of aridity 
and purgation of the appetite, for the soul is purified 
and cleansed thereby, from those imperfections which 
clung to it because of the affections and desires, the 
effect of which is to darken and deaden the soul. 

6. Another very great benefit to the soul in this 
night is, that it practices many virtues at once, as 
patience and long suffering, which are well tried in these 
aridities, the soul persevering in its spiritual exercises 
without sweetness or comfort. The love of God is 
practised, because it is no longer attracted by sweetness 

* Ch. ix. § 3. 


and consolation, but by God only. The virtue ot 
fortitude also is practised, because amid these difficulties, 
and the absence of sweetness in good works from which 
the soul now suffers, it gathers strength from weakness, 
and so becomes strong : finally, all the virtues, cardinal, 
theological, and moral, are practised amidst these 

7. In this night the soul obtains these four benefits 
here mentioned, namely, delight of peace, constant 
remembrance of God, purity and cleanness of soul, the 
practice of all the virtues of which I have just spoken. 
So David speaks from his own experience when he was 
in this night. ' My soul,' he saith, ' refuses to be 
comforted ; I was mindful of God and was delighted, 
and was exercised, and my spirit fainted.' He adds 
forthwith : ' I meditated in the night with my own heart, 
and I was exercised, and I swept my spirit '* clean of all 

8. The soul is purified also in this aridity of the 
desires from the imperfections of the other three capital 
sins of which I have spoken, f envy, anger, and sloth, 
and acquires the opposite virtues. Softened and hum- 
bled by these aridities, by the hardships, temptations, 
and afflictions which in this night try it, it becomes 
gentle with God, with itself, and with its neighbour. It 
is no longer impatiently angry with itself because of its 

* Ps. Ixxvi. 3, 4, 7. I Ch. vii. 


own faults, nor with its neighbour because of his ; 
neither is it discontented or given to unseemly com- 
plaints against God because He does not sanctify it at 
once. As to envy, the soul is in charity with everyone, 
and if any envy remain, it is no longer vicious as before, 
when the soul was afflicted when it saw others preferred 
to it, and raised higher ; for now it yields to everyone 
considering its own misery, and the envy it feels, if it 
feels any, is a virtuous envy, a desire to emulate them, 
which is great virtue. 

9. The sloth and weariness now felt in spiritual 
things are no longer vicious as they were once. They 
were once the fruit of spiritual delights which the soul 
experienced at times, and sought after when it had them 
not. But this present weariness proceeds not from the 
failure of sweetness, for God has taken it all away in 
this purgation of the desire. 

10. Other innumerable benefits beside these, flow 
from this arid contemplation ; for, in the midst of these 
aridities and hardship, God communicates to the soul, 
when it least expects it, spiritual sweetness, most pure 
love, and spiritual knowledge of the most exalted kind, 
of greater worth and profit than any of which it had 
previous experience, though at first the soul may not 
think so, for the spiritual influence now communicated 
is most delicate, and imperceptible by sense. 

11. Finally, as the soul is purified from all sensual 


affections and desires, it attains to liberty of spirit, 
wherein the twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost are had. 
It is also delivered in a most wonderful way from the 
hands of its three enemies — the devil, the world, and the 
flesh ; for when all the delight and sweetness of sense 
are quenched, the devil, the world, and the flesh have 
no weapons and no strength wherewith to assail it. 

12. These aridities, then, make the soul love God in 
all pureness, for now it is influenced not by the pleasure 
and sweetness which it found in its works — as perhaps 
it was when that sv^^eetness was present — but by the 
sole desire to please God. It is not presumptuous and 
self-satisfied, or perhaps it may have been in the day of 
its prosperity, but timid and diffident, without any self- 
satisfaction. Herein consists that holy fear by which 
virtues are preserved and grow. This aridity quenches 
concupiscence, and our natural spirits, as I said before ;* 
for now, when God infuses, from time to time. His own 
sweetness into the soul, it would be strange if it found 
by any efforts of its own as has been already said,t any 
comfort or sweetness in any spiritual act or practice. 

13. The fear of God and the desire to please Him 
increase in this arid night ; for as the breasts of 
sensuality which nourished and sustained the desires 
which the soul followed after, become dry, nothing 
remains in that aridity and detachment but an anxious 

* Ch. iv. § 9, t Ch. ix. § 11. 


desire to serve God, which is most pleasing unto Him, 
as it is written : ' a sacrifice to God is an afflicted 

14. When the soul beholds the many and great 
benefits which have fallen to its lot in this arid purgation 
through which it passed, it cries out with truth, 'oh, 
happy lot, forth unobserved I went.' I escaped from 
the bondage and thraldom of my sensual desires and 
affections, unobserved, so that none of my three enemies 
were able to hinder me. These enemies of the soul 
already spoken oft so bind and imprison it in sensual 
desires and affections, that it cannot go forth out ot 
itself to the liberty of the perfect love of God ; without 
them they cannot attack it. 

15. Hence, when by continual mortification the four 
passions of the soul are calmed, that is, joy, grief, hope, 
and fear, when the natural desires are lulled to sleep in 
our sensual nature by persistent aridities, when the 
senses and the interior powers of the soul cease to be 
active, and meditation no longer pursued, as has been 
already said,J which is the household of the lower part 
of the soul, then the liberty of the spirit is unassailable 
by these enemies and the house remains calm and 
tranquil as the words that follow show. 

* Ps. 1. 19. t § II- + Ch. ix. S. 



The last line of the first stanza explained. 

* My house being now at rest.' When the house ot 
sensuality was at rest, that is, when the passions were 
mortified, concupiscence quenched, the desires subdued 
and lulled to sleep in the blessed night of the purgation 
of sense, the soul began to set out on the way of the 
spirit, the way of proficients, which is also called the 
illuminative way, or the way of infused contemplation, 
wherein God Himself teaches and refreshes the soul 
without meditation or any active efforts that itself may 
deliberately make. Such, as I have said, is this night 
and purgation of the senses. 

2. But this night, in their case who are to enter into 
that other more awful night of the spirit, that they may 
go forward to the divine union of the love of God — it is 
not everyone, but only a few who do so in general — is 
attended with heavy trials and temptations of sense of 
long continuance, in some longer than in others ; for to 
some is sent the angel of satan, the spirit of impurity, 
to buffet them with horrible and violent temptations of 
the flesh, to trouble their minds with filthy thoughts, 
and their imaginations with representations of sin most 
vividly depicted ; which, at times, becomes an affliction 
more grievous than death. 

3 At other times this night is attended by the spirit 


of blasphemy ; the thoughts and conceptions are over- 
run with intolerable blasphemies, which now and then 
are suggested to the imagination with such violence as 
almost to break forth in words ; this, too, is a heavy- 

4. Again, another hateful spirit, called by the prophet, 
* the spirit of giddiness,'* comes to torment them. This 
spirit so clouds their judgment that they are filled with 
a thousand scruples and perplexities so embarrassing 
that they can never satisfy themselves about them, nor 
submit their judgment therein to the counsel and 
direction of others. This is one of the most grievous 
stings and horrors of this night, approaching very nearly 
to that which takes place in the night of the spirit. 

5. God ordinarily sends these violent storms and 
temptations, in the night of the purgation of the sense 
to those whom he is about to lead afterwards into the 
other night — though all do not enter in — that being thus 
chastened and buffeted they may prove themselves, 
dispose and inure sense and faculties for the union of the 
divine wisdom to which they are to be then admitted. 
For if the soul be not tempted, tried, and proved in 
temptations and afflictions, sense will never attain to 
wisdom. That is why it is said in Ecclesiasticus,t 
' What doth he know,' asks the wise man, * that hath 
not been tried r ... he that hath no experience 

* Is. xix. 14. f Eccles. xxxiv. 9, 10, 11. 


knoweth little. ... he that hath not been tried, 
what manner of things doth he know : ' Jeremias also 
bears witness to the same truth, saying : ' thou hast 
chastised me, and I was instructed.'* The most proper 
form of this chastening, for him who will apply himself 
unto wisdom, are those interior trials of which I am now 
speaking. They are that which most effectually purges 
sense of all sweetness and consolations, to which, by 
reason of our natural weakness, we are addicted, and 
by them the soul is really humbled that it may be 
prepared for its coming exaltation. 

6. But how long the soul will continue in this fast 
and penance of sense, cannot with certainty be told, 
because it is not the same in all, neither are all subjected 
to the same temptations. These trials are measured by 
the divine will, and are proportioned to the imperfections, 
many or few, to be purged away : and also to the degree 
of union in love to which God intends to raise the soul ; 
that is the measure of its humiliations, both in their 
intensity and duration. 

7. Those who are strong and more able to bear 
suffering, are purified in more intense trials, and in less 
time. But those who are weak are purified very slowly, 
with weak temptations, and the night of their purgation 
is long : their senses are refreshed from time to time lest 
they should fall away ; these, however, come late to the 

* Jerem. xxxi. 18. 


pureness of their perfection in this life, and some of 
them never. These persons are not clearly in the 
purgative night, nor clearly out of it ; for though they 
make no progress, yet in order that they may be humble 
and know themselves, God tries them for a season in 
aridities and temptations, and visits them with His con- 
solations at intervals lest they should become faint- 
hearted, and seek for comfort in the ways of the world. 
8. From other souls, still weaker, God, as it were, 
hides Himself, that He may try them in His love, for 
without this hiding of His face from them they would 
never learn how to approach Him. But those souls that 
are to enter so blessed and high a state as this of the 
union of love, however quickly God may lead them,, 
tarry long, in general, amidst aridities, as we see by 
experience. Having now brought the first book to a 
close, I proceed to treat of the second night. 





The Second Night ; that of the spirit. When it begins. 

The soul, which God is leading onwards, enters not into 
the union of love at once when it has passed through 
the aridities and trials of the first purgation and night 
of sense ; yea, rather it must spend some time, perhaps 
years, after quitting the state of beginners, in exercising 
itself in the state of proficients- In this state — as one 
released from a rigorous imprisonment — it occupies 
itself in divine things with much greater freedom and 
satisfaction, and its joy is more abundant and interior 
than it was in the beginning before it entered the night 
of sense ; its imagination and faculties are not held, as 
hitherto, in the bonds of meditation and spiritual 
reflections ; it now rises at once to most tranquil and 
loving contemplation, and finds spiritual sweetness 
without the fatigue of meditation. 

2. However, as the purgation of the soul is still 
somewhat incom.plete — the chief part, the purgation of 


the spirit, being wanting, without which, by reason of 
the union of our higher and lower nature, man being an 
individual, the purgation of sense, however violent it 
may have been, is not finished and perfect — the soul will 
never be free from aridities, darkness, and trials, some- 
times much more severe than in the past, which are, as 
it were, signs and heralds of the coming night of the 
spirit, though not so lasting as that expected night ; for 
when the days of the season of this tempestuous night 
have passed, the soul recovers at once its wonted 
serenity. It is in this way that God purifies some souls 
who are not to rise to so high a degree of love as others. 
He admits them at intervals into the night of con- 
templation or spiritual purgation, causing the sun to 
shine upon them, and then to hide its face, according to 
the words of the Psalmist : ' He sendeth His crystal,' 
that is contemplation, ' like morsels.'* These morsels 
of dim contemplation are, however, never so intense as 
is that awful night of contemplation of which I am 
speaking, and in which God purposely places the soul, 
that He may raise it to the divine union. 

3. That sweetness and interior delight, which pro- 
ficients find so easily and so plentifully, come now in 
greater abundance than before, overflowing into the 
senses more than they were wont to do previous to the 
purgation of sense. The senses now being more pure, 

* Ps. cxlvii. 17. 


can taste of the sweetness of the spirit in their way with 
greater ease. But as the sensual part of the soul is 
weak, without any capacity for the strong things of the 
spirit, they who are in the state of proficients by reason 
of the spiritual communications made to the sensual 
part, are subject therein to great infirmities and suffer- 
ings, and physical derangements, and consequently 
weariness of mind, as it is written : ' the corruptible 
body . . , presseth down the mind.'* Hence the com- 
munications made to these cannot be very strong, 
intense, or spiritual, such as they are required to be for 
the divine union with God, because of the weakness 
and corruption of the sensual part which has a share in 

4. Here is the source of ecstasies, raptures, and 
dislocation of the bones which always happen whenever 
these communications are not purely spiritual ; that is, 
granted to the mind alone, as in the case of the perfect, 
already purified in the second night of the spirit. In 
these, raptures and physical sufferings have no place, 
for they enjoy liberty of spirit with unclouded and 
unsuspended senses. To make it clear how necessary 
it is for proficients to enter into the night of the spirit, 
I will now proceed to point out certain imperfections and 
dangers which beset them. 

* Wisd. ix. 15. 



Of certain imperfections of proficients. 

Proficients labour under two kinds of imperfections ; 
one habitual, the other actual. The habitual imper- 
fections are their affections and imperfect habits which 
still remain, like roots, in the mind, where the purgation 
of sense could not penetrate. The difference between 
the purgation of these and of the others, is like 
the difference between plucking out a root, and 
tearing off a branch, or removing a fresh, and 
an old stain. For, as I have said,* the purgation of 
sense is, for the spirit, merely the gate and entrance 
of contemplation, and serves rather to bend sense 
to the spirit than to unite the latter with God. 
The stains of the old man still remain in the 
spirit, though not visible to it, and if they be not 
removed by the strong soap and lye of the purgation of 
this night, the spirit cannot attain to the pureness of 
the divine union. 

2. They suffer also from dulness of mind, and natural 
rudeness which every man contracts by sin ; from 
distraction and dissipation^ of mind, which must be 
refined, enlightened, and made recollected in the 
sufferings and hardships of this night. All those who 
have not advanced beyond the state of proficients are 
* Bk. 1. ch. XI., § 3. 


subject to these habitual imperfections, which cannot 
co-exist with the perfect state of union with God in 

3. But all are not subject to actual imperfections in 
the same way ; some, whose spiritual good is so much 
on the surface, and so much under the influence of sense, 
fall into certain unseemlinesses and dangers, of which I 
spoke in the beginning of this book. For as their 
mind and sense and fe(^lings are full of fancies whereby 
they very often see imaginary and spiritual visions — all 
this, together with other pleasurable impressions, befall 
many of them in this state, wherein the devil and their 
own proper fancy most frequently delude the soul — and 
as satan is wont with so much sweetness to insinuate, 
a.nd impress these imaginations, they are easily deluded 
and influenced by him, because they do not take the 
precaution to resign themselves into the hands of God, 
and defend themselves vigorously against these visions 
and impressions. For now the devil causes them both 
to believe in many vain visions and false prophecies, and 
to presume that God and His saints are speaking to 
them : they also frequently believe in their own fancies. 

4. Now, too, satan is wont to fill them with pride 
and presumption ; and they, led on by vanity and 
arrogance make a show of themselves in the per- 
formance of exterior acts which have an air of sanctity, 
such as ecstasies and other appearances. They thus 


become bold with God, losing holy fear, which is the 
key and guard of all virtue. Some of them become so 
entangled in manifold falsehoods and delu'^ions, and so 
persist in them, that their return to the pure road of 
virtue and real spirituality is exceedingly doubtful. 
They fall into this miserable condition because they 
gave way to these spiritual imaginations and feelings 
with over much confidence when they began to advance 
on the road of spirituality. 

5. I have much to say of these imperfections of 
theirs, and how much more incurable these are than the 
others, because they consider them as more spiritual 
than those ; but I shall pass on. One thing, however, 
I must say, to establish the necessity of the spiritual 
night which is the purgation of the soul that is to go on 
to perfection, that there is not one among the proficient, 
however great may be his exertions, who can be free 
from many of these natural affections and imperfect 
habits, the purification of which must, as I have said, 
necessarily precede the divine union. 

6. Besides, and I have said it before,* because the 
spiritual communications reach also to the lower part of 
the soul, they cannot be as intense, pure, and strong, as 
the divine union demands, and, therefore, if that is to be 
attained, the soul must enter the second night of the 
spirit where — perfectly detaching sense and spirit from 

* Bk. ii., ch. ii., § 3 : Bk. i., cli. i., § 4. 


all sweetness and from all imaginations — it will travel 
on the road of faith dark and pure, the proper and 
adequate means of union, as it is written : * I will 
espouse thee to Me in faith,'* that is, I will unite Myself 
to thee in faith. 


Notes on that which is to follow. 

Proficients, then, experienced during the past time 
these sweet communications, in order that the sensual 
part of the soul, allured and attracted by the spiritual 
sweetness overflowing from the spirit, may be united 
and made one with the spiritual part ; both parts eating 
the same spiritual food, each in its own way, off the 
same dish of their one being, that, thus in a certain 
way become one and concordant, they might be prepared 
for the sufferings of the sharp and rough purgation of 
the spirit which is before them. In that purgation the 
two parts of the soul, the spiritual and the sensual, are 
to be wholly purified, for neither of them can be 
perfectly purified without the other, and the purgation 
of sense is then effectual when that of the spirit com- 
mences in earnest. 

2. Hence it is that the night of sense may and should 
be called a certain re-formation and bridling of desire, 

* Os. ii., 20. 


rather than purgation, because all the imperfections and 
disorders of the sensual part having their strength and 
roots in the mind, can never be wholly purged away 
until the evil habits, rebelliousness and perverseness of 
the mind are corrected. Therefore, in this night ensuing, 
both parts of the soul are purified together : this is the 
end for which it was necessary to have passed through 
the re-formation of the first night, and to have attained 
to that tranquillity which is its fruit, in order that sense 
and spirit, made one, may both be purified and suffer 
together with the greater courage, most necessary for so 
violent and sharp a purgation. For if the weakness of 
the lower part be not redressed, and if it have acquired 
no courage in God, in the sweet communions with Him 
subsequently enjoyed, nature would have been unpre- 
pared and without strength for the trials of this night. 

3. The intercourse of proficients with God is, however, 
still most mean, because the gold of the spirit is not 
purified and refined. They think, therefore, and speak 
of Him as children, and their feelings are those of 
children, as described by the Apostle : ' When I was a 
child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought 
as a child ; '* because they have not reached perfection, 
which is union with God in love. But in the state of 
union, having grown to manhood, they do great things 
in spirit — all their actions and all their faculties being 

* I Cor. xiii. 11. 


now rather divine than human, as I shall hereafter 
explain* — for God is stripping them of the old man, and 
clothing them with the new, as it is written : ' Put on 
the new man, who is created according to God ; 't and 
again, '■ Be reformed in the newness of your mind.'+ 

4. He now denudes the faculties, the affections, and 
feelings, spiritual and sensual, interior and exterior, 
leaving the understanding in darkness, the will dry, the 
memory empty, the affections of the soul in the deepest 
affliction, bitterness, and distress ; withholding from it 
the former sweetness it had in spiritual things, in order 
that this privation may be one of the principles, of which 
the mind has need, that the spiritual form of the spirit, 
which is the union of love, may enter into it and be one 
with it. 

5. All this our Lord effects in the soul by means of 
contemplation, pure and dark, as it is described by it in 
the first stanza. That stanza, though explained in the 
beginning of the night of sense, the soul understands it 
principally of this second night of the spirit, because 
that is the chief part of the purification of the soul. I 
shall, therefore, apply it in this sense, and explain it 
here again. 

* Ch. iv. § 2. t Ephes. iv. 24. + Rom. xii. 2. 


Explanation of the first stanza. 

In a dark night. 

With anxious love inflamed. 

O, happy lot ! 

Forth unobserved I went. 

My house being now at rest. 

Taking these words, then, with reference to purgation^ 
contemplation, or detachment, or poverty of spirit — these 
are, as it were, one and the same thing — they may be 
thus explained in this way, as if the soul were saying : 
In poverty, without help in all my powers, the under- 
standing in darkness, the will under constraint, the 
memory in trouble and distress, in the dark, in pure 
faith, which is the dark night of the natural faculties, 
the will alone touched by grief and affliction, and the 
anxieties of the love of God, I went forth out of myselt, 
out of my low conceptions and lukewarm love, out of 
my scanty and poor sense of God, without being 
hindered by the flesh or the devil. 

2. This was to me a great blessing, a happy lot, for 
by annihilating and subduing my faculties, passions, 
and affections — the instruments of my low conceptions 
of God — I went forth out of the scanty works and ways 
of my own to those of God ; that is, my understanding 
went forth out of itself, and from human became divine ; 
for united to God in that purgation, it understands no 


more within its former limits and narrow bounds, but in 
the divine wisdom to which it is united. 

3. My will went forth out of itself becoming divine, 
for now, united with the divine love, it loves no 
more with its former scanty powers and circumscribed 
capacity, but with the energy and pureness of the divine 
spirit. Thus the will acts now in the things of God, not 
in a human way, and the memory also is transformed in 
eternal apprehensions of glory. Finally, all the energies 
and affections of the soul are in this night and purgation 
of the old man, renewed into a divine temper and delight. 


Explains how this dim contemplation is not a night only, 
but pain and torment also for the soul. 

In a dark night. 

The dark night is a certain inflowing of God into 
the soul which cleanses it of its ignorances and 
imperfections, habitual, natural, and spiritual. Con- 
templatives call it infused contemplation, or mystical 
theology, whereby God secretly teaches the soul and 
instructs it in the perfection of love, without efforts on 
its own part beyond a loving attention to God, listening 
to His voice and admitting the light He sends, but 
without understanding how this is infused contemplation. 

CHAP, v.] OF THE SOUL. . 70 

And inasmuch as it is the loving wisdom of God, it 
produces special effects in the soul, for it prepares it, 
by purifying and enlightening it, for union with God 
in love : it is the same loving wisdom, which by 
enlightening purifies the blessed spirits, that here 
purifies and enlightens the soul. 

2. But it may be asked : Why does the soul call the 
divine light, which enlightens the soul and purges it of 
its ignorances, the dark night r I reply, that the divine 
wisdom is, for two reasons, not night and darkness only, 
but pain and torment also to the soul. The first is, the 
divine wisdom is so high that it transcends the capacity 
of the soul, and therefore is, in that respect, darkness. 
The second reason is based on the meanness and 
impurity of the soul, and in that respect the divine 
wisdom is painful to it, afflictive and dark also. 

3. To prove the truth of the first reason, we take for 
granted a principle of the philosopher, namely, the more 
clear and evident divine things are, the more dark and 
hidden they are to the soul naturally. Thus the more 
clear the light the more does it blind the eyes of the 
owl,* and the stronger the sun's rays the more it blinds 
the visual organs ; overcoming them, by reason of their 
weakness, and depriving them of the power of seeing. 
So the divine light of contemplation, when it beats on 

* [ Aristot. Metaphysic. lib. i . props fiiiem. ' i2o7rep yap to. t5>v vvk- 
repiSoiv hjxjxara Trpus to c^eyyos e'x^' ''"'^^ /^^^' Vf^^P*^^'' (^^'T^ i«^^ t^S 
■qfierepas y/v^Tj'i o vo?? Tvpu^ ra tij (fivcriL cfiavepcoTara — arrcor.'] 


the soul, not yet perfectly enlightened, causes spiritual 
darkness, because it not only surpasses its strength, 
but because it blinds it and deprives it of its natural 

4. It is for this reason that St. Dionysius and other 
mystic theologians call infused contemplation a ray of 
darkness, that is, for the unenlightened and unpurified 
soul, because this great supernatural light masters the 
natural power of the reason and takes away its natural 
way of understanding. Therefore, David also said : 
' Clouds and darkness are round about Him ; '* not 
that this is so in reality, but in reference to our weak 
understanding, which, in light so great, becomes 
dimmed and blind, unable to ascend so high. He 
repeats it, saying : ' At the brightness that was before 
Him the clouds passed,'! that is, between Him and our 
understanding. This is the reason why the illuminating 
ray of hidden wisdom, when God sends it from Himself 
into the soul not yet transformed, produces thick dark- 
ness in the understanding. 

5. This dim contemplation is in its beginnings, 
painful also to the soul. For as the infused divine 
contemplation contains many excellences in the highest 
degree, and the soul, which is the recipient, because not 
yet pure, is involved in many miseries the result is — as 
two contraries cannot co-exist in the same subject — that 

* Ps. xcvi, 2. f lb. xvii. 13. 

CHAP, v.] OF THE SOUL. 81 

the soul must suffer and be in pain, being the subject in 
which the two contraries meet, and resist each other 
because of the purgation of the soul from its imperfec- 
tions, which is being wrought by contemplation. I shall 
show it to be so by the following induction. 

6. In the first place, because the light and wisdom of 
contemplation is most pure and bright, and because the 
soul, on which it beats, is in darkness and impure, that 
soul which is the recipient must greatly suffer. As eyes 
weakened and clouded by humours suffer pain when the 
clear light beats upon them, so the soul, by reason of its 
impurity, suffers exceedingly when the divine light really 
shines upon it. And when the rays of this pure light 
strike upon the soul, in order to expel its impurities, the 
soul perceives itself to be so unclean and miserable that 
it seems as if God had set Himself against it, and itself 
were set against God. So grievous and painful is this 
feeling — for it thinks now that God has abandoned it 
— that it was one of the heaviest afflictions of Job during 
his trial. ' Why hast Thou set me contrary to Thee, and 
I become burdensome to myself r '* The soul seeing 
distinctly in this bright and pure light, though dimly, its 
own impurity, acknowledges its own unworthiness before 
God and all creatures. 

7. That which pains it still more is the fear it has that 
it never will be worthy, and that all its goodness is gone. 

* Job vii. 20. 


This is the fruit of that deep impression, made on the 
mind, in the knowledge and sense of its own wickedness 
and misery. For now the divine and dim light reveals 
to it all its wretchedness, and it sees clearly that of itself 
it can never be other than it is. In this sense we can 
understand the words of the Psalmist : ' For iniquities 
Thou hast chastised man, and Thou hast made his soul 
pine away as a spider.'* 

8. In the second place, the pain of the soul comes 
from its natural and spiritual weakness ; for when this 
divine contemplation strikes it with a certain vehemence, 
in order to strengthen it and subdue it, it is then so 
pained in its weakness as almost to faint away, particu- 
larly at times when the divine contemplation strikes it 
with greater vehemence ; for sense and spirit, as if 
under a heavy and gloomy burden, suffer and groan in 
agony so great that death itself would be a desired 

g. This was the experience of Job, and he said, * I will 
not that He contend with me with much strength, nor 
that He oppress me with the weight of His greatness. 't 
The soul under the burden of this oppression feels itself 
so removed out of God's favour that it thinks — and so it 
is — that all things which consoled it formerly have utterly 
failed it, and that no one is left to pity it. Job also 
speaks to the same purport, ' Have mercy upon me, have 

* Ps. xxxviii. 12. j Job xxiii. 6. 


mercy upon me, at the least you my friends, because the 
hand of our Lord hath touched me.'* Wonderful and 
piteous sight ! So great are the weakness and impurity 
of the soul that the hand of God, so soft and so gentle, is 
felt to be so heavy and oppressive, though neither press- 
ing nor resting on it, but merely touching it, and that, 
too, most mercifully ; for He touches the soul not to 
chastise it, but to load it with His graces. 


Of other sufferings of the soul in this night. 

The third kind of suffering and pain for the soul comes 
from the meeting of two extremes, the human and the 
divine : the latter is the purgative contemplation ; the 
human, is the soul itself. The divine touches the soul to 
renew it and to ripen it, in order to make it divine, to 
detach it from the habitual affections and qualities of the 
old man, to which it clings and conforms itself. The 
divine extreme so breaks and bruises the soul, swallow- 
ing it up in profound darkness, that the soul, at the sight 
of its own wretchedness, seems to perish and waste away, 
by a cruel spiritual death, as if it were swallowed up and 
devoured by a wild beast, suffering the pangs of Jonas in 
the belly of the whale. For it must lie buried in the grave 

* Job xix. 21. 


of a gloomy death that it may attain to the spiritual 
resurrection for which it hopes. David describes this 
kind of pain and suffering — though it really baffles 
description — when he says, * The sorrows of death have 
compassed me . . . the sorrows of hell have compassed 
me. ... In my tribulation I have called upon our 
Lord, and have cried to my God.'* 

2. But the greatest affliction of the sorrowful soul in 
this state is the thought that God has abandoned it, of 
which it has no doubt ; that He has cast it away into 
darkness as an abominable thing. The thought that He 
has abandoned it is a grievous and pitiable affliction. 
David experienced the same trials when he said, ' As the 
wounded sleeping in the sepulchres, of whom Thou art 
mindful no more ; and they are cast off from Thy hand. 
They have put me in the lower lake, in the dark places, 
and in the shadow of death. Thy fury is confirmed 
upon me ; and all Thy waves Thou hast brought in upon 

3. For, in truth, when the soul is in the pangs of the 
purgative contemplation, the shadow of death and the 
pains and torments of hell are most acutely felt, that is, 
the sense of being without God, being chastised and 
abandoned in His wrath and heavy displeasure. All 
this and even more the soul feels now, for a fearful 
apprehension has come upon it that thus it will be with 

* Ps. xvii. 5, 6, 7. f lb. Ixxxvii. 6, 7, 8. 


it for ever. It has also the same sense of abandonment 
with respect to all creatures, and that it is an object of 
contempt to all, especially to its friends ; and so the 
Psalmist continues, saying, ' Thou hast put away my 
acquaintance far from me ; they have set me an 
abomination to themselves.'* 

4. The prophet Jonas also, as one who had experience 
of this, both bodily and spiritually, witnesses to the same 
truth, saying, ' Thou hast cast me forth into the depth, in 
the heart of the sea, and a flood hath compassed me : all 
Thy surges and Thy waves have passed over me. And 
I said, I am cast away from the sight of Thine eyes : but 
yet I shall see Thy holy temple again,' — this is the 
purgation of the soul that it may see God — ' the waters 
have compassed me even to the soul, the depth hath 
enclosed me, the sea hath covered my head. I am 
descended to the extreme parts of the mountains : the 
bars of the earth have shut me up for ever.'f The bars 
of the earth here are the imperfections of the soul which 
hinder it from having any joy in this sweet contempla- 

5. The fourth kind of pain is caused by another 
excellence peculiar to this dim contemplation, a sense of 
God's majesty and greatness, which makes it conscious 
of the other extreme, its own poverty and misery ; this 
is one of the chief sufferings of this purgation. The 

* lb. Q. f Jon. ii. 4 — 7. 


soul is conscious of a profound emptiness, and destitution 
of the three kinds of goods, natural, temporal, and 
spiritual, which are ordained for its comfort ; it sees 
itself in the midst of the opposite evils, miserable im- 
perfections and aridities, emptiness of the understanding, 
and abandonment of the spirit in darkness. 

0. Inasmuch as God is now purifying the soul in its 
sensual and spiritual substance, its interior and exterior 
powers, it is necessary for it that it should be in all 
its relations empty, poor and abandoned, in aridity, 
emptiness, and darkness. For the sensual part is 
purified in aridities, the faculties in the emptiness of their 
powers, and the spirit in the thick darkness. 

7. All this God brings about by means of this dim 

contemplation, in which the soul is made to suffer from 

the failure and withdrawal of its natural powers, which 

is a most distressing pain. It is like that of a person 

being suffocated, or hindered from breathing. But this 

contemplation is also purifying the soul, undoing or 

emptying it, or consuming in it, as fire consumes the rust 

and mouldiness of the metal all the affections and habits 

of imperfection which it had contracted in the whole 

course of its life. But inasmuch as chese habits are 

deeply rooted in the soul, the interior sufferings and trials 

it has to undergo are heavy, and are, in addition to the 

destitution and emptiness, natural and spiritual, of which 

I have spoken. 


8. The words of the prophet Ezechiel are now ful- 
filled : ' Heap together the bones which I will burn with 
fire : the flesh shall be consumed, and the whole com- 
position shall be sodden, and the bones shall dry away.'* 
This describes the pain which the soul suffers in the 
sensual and spiritual parts when in this state of 
emptiness and poverty. Then the prophet proceeds, 
saying : ' Set it also upon hot burning coals empty, that 
the brass thereof may wax hot and be melted ; and let 
the filth of it be melted in the midst thereof, and let the 
rust thereof be consumed. 't 

9. This is the heavy trial of the soul in the purifying 
fires of contemplation. The prophet says that, in order 
to purge away and consume the filth of the affections 
which are within the soul, it is necessary for it, in a 
certain way to be annihilated and undone, because its 
passions and affections have become natural to it. The 
soul, therefore, because it is purified in this furnace, like 
gold in a crucible, according to the words of Wisdom, 
' as gold in the furnace He hath proved them,'+ feels 
itself utterly consumed in its innermost substance in this 
absolute poverty wherein it is as it were lost. This is 
taught us by the Psalmist, saying of hirfiself: ' Save me, 
O God, because waters are entered unto my soul. I stick 
fast in the mire of the depth ; and there is no sure 
standing. I am come into the depth of the sea : and a 

* Ezech. xxiv. to. | lb. xxiv. 11. + Wisd. iii. 6. 


tempest hath overwhelmed me. I have laboured crying, 
my jaws are made hoarse, my eyes have failed, whilst I 
hope in my God.'* 

lo. Here God is humbling the soul that He may exalt 
it much hereafter, and if it were not His will that these- 
feelings, when they rise, should be quickly lulled again, 
the soul would almost immediately depart from the body, 
but they occur only at intervals in their greatest violence. 
They are occasionally felt so acutely that the soul seems 
to see hell and perdition open before it. Of these, are 
they who go down alive into hell, and have their 
purgatory in this life ; for this is the purgation to be 
endured there for venial sins. And thus the soul which 
passes through this state in the present life, and is 
perfectly purified, either enters not into purgatory, or is 
detained there but a moment, for one hour here is of 
greater profit than many there. 


The same subject continued. Other afflictions and trials of 

the will. 

The afflictions and distress of the will now are also very 
great ; they occasionally pierce the soul with a sudden 
recollection of the evils that environ it, and of the 
uncertainty of relief. To this is superadded the memory 

* Ps. Ixviii. 2 — 4. 


of past happiness ; for they who enter this night have, 
generally, had much sweetness in God, and served Him 
greatly ; but now, to see themselves strangers to so much 
happiness, and unable to recover it, causes them the 
greatest affliction, 

2. Job also, having learnt this by experience, declares 
it in these words: 'I sometime that wealthy one, 
suddenly am broken ; He hath held my neck, broken me, 
and set me to Himself, as it were a mark. He hath 
compassed me with His spears. He hath wounded my 
loins, He hath not spared, and hath poured out on the 
earth my bowels. He hath cut me with wound upon 
wound : He hath come violently upon me as it were a 
giant. I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin, and have 
covered my flesh with ashes. My face is swollen with 
weeping, and my eyelids are dim.'* So many and so 
great are the torments of this night, and so many the 
places in the Holy Writings, which may be quoted to 
this effect, that time and strength would fail me were I 
to enumerate them. For no doubt, all that can be said 
will fall short ; something may be gathered on the 
matter from the texts already before us. 

2. And now to conclude the subject of the first line of 
the stanza, and to show what this night is to the soul, I 
will repeat how it was felt by the prophet Jeremias : 
' I, the man that see my poverty in the rod of His 

* Job xvi. 13 — 17. 


indignation. He hath led me and brought me into 
darkness, and not into light. Only against me He hath 
turned, and hath converted His hand all the day. He 
hath made my skin old and my flesh ; He hath broken 
my bones. He hath built round about me, and He hath 
compassed me with gall and labour. In dark places He 
hath placed me as the everlasting dead. He hath built 
round about against me, I go not forth. He hath 
aggravated my fetters. Yea, and when I shall cry and 
ask, He hath excluded my prayer. He hath shut up my 
ways with square stones. He hath subverted my paths. 
He is become unto me a bear lying in wait ; a lion in 
secret places. He hath subverted my paths, and hath 
broken me ; He hath made me desolate. He hath bent 
His bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He hath 
shot in my reins the daughters of His quiver. I am 
made a derision to all my people, their song all the 
day. He hath replenished me with bitterness, He hath 
inebriated me with wormwood. And He hath broken 
my teeth by number ; He hath fed me with ashes. And 
my soul is repelled from peace ; I have forgotten good 
things. And I said : Mine end is perished and mine 
hope from our Lord. Remember my poverty and 
transgression, the wormwood and the gall. Remember- 
ing I will be mindful ; and my soul shall languish in 

* Lament, iii. i — 20. 


3. These are the lamentations of the prophet over 
these pains and trials, "whereby he most vividly depicts 
the sufferings of the soul, which come upon it in this 
purgation and spiritual night. That soul is worthy of 
all compassion which God leads into this dreadful and 
horrible night. For, although it is well with it because 
ot the great blessing of which this night is the source, 
for as Job s^aith, God will raise up good things for it out 
of this darkness, and bring light over the shadow of 
death : ' Who revealeth profound things out of darkness, 
and bringeth forth the shadow of death into light ;'* so 
that his light shall be as the darkness ; ' the darkness 
thereof so also the light thereof,' as David speaks. t 
Nevertheless, because of the excessive pain it endures, 
and the great uncertainty of relief, it imagines now, as 
the prophet says, that its calamities will never come to 
an end. God, in the words of David, having made it to 
'dwell in darkness as those that have been dead of old,' 
the spirit being in anguish within it, and ' the heart 
within ' it ' troubled,' it is a very painful and pitiable 

4. Besides, the soul derives no consolation now in 
the advice that may be given it, or from its spiritual 
director, because of the loneliness and desolation of this 
dark night. Though its confessor may set before it in 
many ways good reasons why it should be comforted 

* Job xii. 22. f Ps. cxxxviii. 12. 


because of the blessings which these pains supply, the 
soul will not believe him. For as it is so filled with and 
overwhelmed by its sense of these evils, whereby it 
discerns so clearly its own misery, it imagines that its 
spiritual director, not seeing that which itself sees and 
feels, speaks as he does without comprehending its state, 
and, instead of being comforted, is pained anew, for it 
considers that his counsel cannot relieve its misery ; and 
in truth so it is, for until our Lord shall have perfected 
the purification of the soul, according to His will, no 
help and no remedy can be of any service or profit in 
this pain. 

5. Moreover, the soul can do so little in this state; 
like a prisoner in a gloomy dungeon, bound hand and 
foot, it cannot stir, neither can it see or feel any relief, 
either from above or below, until the spirit is softened, 
humbled, and purified; until it becomes so refined, 
simple, and pure, as to become one with the Spirit of 
God in that degree of the union of love which He in 
His mercy intends for it, and corresponding to which is 
the greater or less violence, the longer or shorter duration, 
of this purgation. 

6. But if this purgation is to be real it will last, 
notwithstanding its vehemence, for some years, but 
admitting of intermissions and relief, during which, by 
the dispensation of God, the dim contemplation divested 
of its purgative form and character assumes that of the 


illuminative and of love. Under this form of it, the 
soul, like one escaped from the dungeons of its prison 
into the comfort of space and freedom, enjoys the 
sweetness of peace, and the loving tenderness of God in 
the flowing abundance of spiritual communications. 
This is to the soul a sign of the spiritual health which 
is being wrought within by this purgation, and a fore- 
taste of the abundance it hopes for. So much so is this 
at times that it thinks all its trials are over. For such 
is the nature of spiritual things in the soul, when they 
are most purely spiritual, that the soul thinks when trials 
return, they will never end, and that all its blessings 
have perished ; and when it prospers in its spiritual 
course it thinks all its calamities are past, and that it 
shall always abound in good things. Thus it was with 
David when he said : ' In my abundance I said : I shall 
never be moved.'* 

7. The reason of this is that the actual presence of 
one thing in the mind is naturally inconsistent with the 
presence and sense of its contrary ; this is not so much 
so in the sensual part of the soul, because of the weak- 
ness of its apprehension. But as the spirit is not yet 
wholly purified and cleansed from the imperfections 
contracted by its lower nature, though more resolute and 
consistent now, it is liable to further suiferings, so far as 
it is under the dominion of these affections, as we see in 

* Ps. xxix. 7. 


the many afflictions and distress of David after the 
change, though he had said in the day of his prosperity, 
' I shall never be moved.' 

8. In the same way the soul, amidst the abundance 
of spiritual blessings, but not observing the root of 
imperfection and impurity which still remains, thinks 
that all its trials are over. This thought, however, is of 
rare occurrence, for until the spiritual purgation is com- 
plete, the sweet communications are rarely so abundant 
as to conceal the root that remains behind, in such a 
way that the soul shall not be inwardly conscious of 
some deficiency, or that something still is to be done. 
Nor is the communication such as to allow it to enjoy 
the relief that is offered it perfectly, for it feels as if an 
enemy were lurking within, who, though he may be as 
if subdued and asleep, the soul fears it may yet return 
in his strength and assault it as before, 

9. And so it comes to pass, for when the soul is most 
secure it returns, drags down the soul and then plunges 
it at once into another affliction heavier, darker, and 
sadder than the previous one, and which, perhaps, will 
be of longer continuance. The soul again is convinced 
that all its good is gone from it for ever. Experience 
cannot teach it : the blessings that followed its former 
trials, during which it thought that its sufferings would 
never end, cannot hinder it from believing, during its 
present trials, that all its good has perished, and that it 


will never be again with it as it was before. For, as I am 
saying, this belief, so persistent, is wrought in the soul 
by the present impression made on the mind, which 
destroys within it all the occasions of joy. 

lo. Thus the soul in this purgation, though it seems 
to love God greatly, and is ready to die for Him a 
thousand deaths — and that is true, for souls thus tried 
love God with great sincerity, nevertheless they find 
no relief, but rather an increase of pain herein. For 
seeking God alone, and nought else, seeing also its own 
great miser}^, it doubts whether God be not angry 
with it. It cannot then persuade itself that there is 
anything in it worthy of love, but rather is convinced 
that there is that in it which should make it hated not 
only of God, but of all creatures also for ever ; it grieves 
to see that of itself it deserves to be abandoned of Him 
Whom it so loves and so longs for. 


Of other sufferings which distress the soul in this state. 

Another source of much affliction and distress to the 
soul in this state is that, as the dark night hinders the 
exercise of the faculties and affections, it cannot lift up 
the heart and mind to God as before, nor pray to Him. 


It thinks itself to be in that state described by Jeremias 
when he said, ' Thou hast set a cloud before Thee, that 
prayer may not pass.'* This is the meaning of the 
words quoted beforet — ' He hath shut up my ways with 
square stones. '+ If at any time it prays, it prays with 
so much aridity, and without sweetness, so as to think 
that God neither hears nor regards it ; as the prophet 
tells us in the same place, saying, ' Yea, and when I 
shall cry, and ask. He excludeth my prayer/§ And, in 
truth, this is the time for the soul, in the words of 
Jeremias, to put its ' mouth in the dust,'|| suffering in 
patience this purgation, 

2, It is God Himself Who is now working in the 
soul, and the soul is therefore powerless. Hence it 
comes that it cannot pray or give much attention to 
divine things. Neither can it attend to temporal matters, 
for it falls into frequent distractions, and the memory is 
so profoundly weakened, that many hours pass by with- 
out its knowing what it has done or thought, what it is 
doing or is about to do ; nor can it give much heed to 
what it is occupied with, notwithstanding all its efforts. 

3. Inasmuch, then, as not only the understanding is 
purified from its imperfect perceptions, and the will from 
its affections, but the memory, also, from all its 
knowledge and reflections, it is necessary that the soul 

* Lam. iii. 44. f Ch. vii. § 2. J lb. iii. 9. 

§ lb. iii. 8. II lb. iii. 29. 


should be annihilated herein, that the words of the 
Psalmist, when he was in this purgation may be fulfilled : 
* I am brought to nothing, and I knew not.'* This 
' knowing not ' extends to these follies and failures of 
the memory. These wanderings and failures of the 
memory are the result of interior recollection, by which 
the soul is absorbed in contemplation. For in order to 
prepare the soul, and temper it divinely in all its powers 
for the divine union of love, it must, first of all, be 
absorbed with all its powers in the divine and dim 
spiritual light of contemplation, and be thus detached 
from all affection for, and apprehension of, created 
things. This continues ordinarily in proportion to the 
intensity of its contemplation. 

4. Thus, then, the more pure and simple the divine 
light when it beats on the soul, the more does it darken 
it, empty it, and annihilate it, as to all its apprehensions 
and affections, whether they regard heavenly or earthly 
things. And also, the less pure and simple the light, 
the less is the soul darkened and annihilated. It seems 
strange to say, that the purer and clearer the super- 
natural and divine light the more is it in the soul, and 
that it is less so when less pure. 

5. But this may be easily explained ; if we keep in 
mind the saying of the philosopher that supernatural 
things are more dark to the understanding the more 

* Ps. Ixxii. 22. 



clear and evident they are in themselves. Thus the ray 
of high contemplation, transcending as it does the 
natural powers, striking the soul with its divine light, 
makes it dark, and deprives it of all the natural affections 
and apprehensions which it previously entertained in its 
own natural light. Under these circumstances, the soul 
is left not only in darkness but in emptiness also, as to 
its powers and desires, both natural and spiritual, 
and in this emptiness and darkness is purified and 
enlightened by the divine spiritual light, but it does not 
imagine that it has it ; yea, rather, it thinks itself to be 
in darkness. 

6. As a ray of light, if pure, and if there be nothing 
to reflect it, or against which it strikes, is almost 
invisible, and is by reflection better seen, so the spiritual 
light, which beats on the soul is, of itself, neither visible 
nor perceptible, because it is so pure, but when it beats 
upon anything that reflects it, that is, upon any matter 
of perfection which presents itself to the understanding 
or a decision to be made as to the truth or falsehood of 
anything, the soul sees it at once, and understands the 
matter more clearly than it ever did before it entered 
into this darkness. In the same way the soul discerns 
the spiritual light which is given it that it may easily 
recognize its own imperfection ; thus, when a ray of 
light is of itself not so visible, but when the hand 
or any other object is held before it, the hand is seen 


forthwith, and the light of the sun is known to be 

7. Then, because this spiritual light is so clear, pure 
and diffused, neither confined to, nor specially related to, 
any particular matter of the understanding — seeing that 
with respect to all such matters the powers of the soul 
are empty and as if they did not exist — the soul in great 
ease and freedom discerns and searches into every thing 
high or low, that is presented to it ; and for that reason 
the Apostle said, * The Spirit searcheth all things, even 
the profundities of God ; '* for it is of this pure and 
diffused wisdom that we are to understand that which 
the Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of the wise 
man, ' Wisdom reacheth everywhere by reason of her 
clearness ;'t that is, because not connected with any 
particular object of the understanding or affection. 
The characteristic of a mind purified and annihilated 
as to all particular objects of affection and of the 
understanding, is to have no pleasure in, or knowledge 
of, anything in particular ; to abide in emptiness and 
darkness ; to embrace all things in its grand com- 
prehensiveness, that it may fulfil mystically the words 
of the Apostle, ' having nothing and possessing all 
things,'+ for such poverty of spirit merits such a 

* I Cor. ii. lo. f Wisd. vii. 24. X - Cor. vi. 10. 



How this night enlightens the mind though it brings dark- 
ness over it. 

It remains for me now to explain that this blessed night, 
though it darkens the mind, does so only to give it light 
in every thing ; and though it humbles it and makes it 
miserable, does so only to raise it up and set it free ; and 
though it impoverishes it and empties it of all its natural 
self and liking, it does so only to enable it to reach 
forward divinely to the possession and fruition of all 
things, both of heaven and earth, in perfect liberty of 
spirit. As it is fitting that the primary elements, that 
they may enter into the composition of all natural 
substances, should have no colour, taste, nor smell 
peculiar to themselves, in order that they may combine 
with all colours, all tastes, and all smell, so the mind 
must be pure, simple, and detached from all kinds of 
natural affections, actual and habitual, in order that it 
may be able to participate freely in the largeness of 
spirit of the divine wisdom, wherein by reason of its 
pureness it tastes of the sweetness of all things in a 
certain pre-eminent way. And without this purgation 
it is altogether impossible to taste of the abundance 
of these spiritual delights. For one single affection 
remaining in the soul, or any one matter to which the 
mind clings either habitually or actually, is sufficient to 
prevent all perception and all communication of the 


tender and interior sweetness of the spirit of love, which 
contains within itself all sweetness supremely. 

2. As the children of Israel, merely on account of 
that single affection for, and remembrance of, the 
fleshpots of Egypt, could not taste the delicious bread 
of angels, the manna in the desert, which as the divine 
writings tell us, had * the sweetness of all taste,' and 
* turned to that every man would,'* so the mind which 
is still subject to any actual or habitual affection or 
particular or narrow mode of apprehending, or under- 
standing anything, cannot taste the sweetness of the 
spirit of liberty, according to the desire of the will. 
The reason is this : the affections, feelings, and appre- 
hensions of the perfect spirit, being of so high an order 
and specially divine, are of another kind and different 
from those which are natural ; and in order to be 
actually and habitually enjoyed, require the annihilation 
of the latter. 

3. It is therefore very expedient and necessary, if 
the soul is to advance to these heights, that the dark 
night of contemplation should first bring it to nothing, 
and undo it in all its meannesses, bringing it into 
darkness, aridities, loneliness, and emptiness ; for the 
light that is to be given it is a certain divine light of 
the highest nature, surpassing all natural light, and 
not naturally cognisable by the understanding. If the 

* Wisd. xvi. 20, 21. 


understanding is to be united with that light, and 
become divine in the state of perfection, it must first 
of all be purified and annihilated as to its natural light, 
which must be brought actually into darkness by means 
of this dim contemplation. 

4. This darkness must continue so long as it is 
necessary to destroy the habit, long ago contracted, of 
understanding things in a natural way, and until the 
divine enlightening shall have taken its place. And 
therefore inasmuch as the power of understanding, 
previously exerted, is natural, the result is that the 
darkness now endured is awful, and most afflictive, 
because it reaches to, and is felt in, the innermost 
depths of the spirit. In the same way, inasmuch as 
the affection of love, communicated in the divine union, 
is divine, and therefore most spiritual, subtile, delicate, 
and most interior, surpassing all sense and affection, 
natural and imperfect, of the will and every desire of 
the same, it is necessary for the fruition, in the union 
of love, of this divine affection and most exquisite 
delight, that the will should be first purified and 
annihilated, as to all its affections and feelings, left in 
darkness and distress proportional to the intensity of 
the habit of natural affections it had acquired, in respect 
both of human and divine things. 

5. And this must be done, in order that the will, in 
the fire of dim contemplation, wasted, withered, and 


deprived of all selfishness — like the liver of the fish 
which Tobias laid on the burning coals* — may acquire a 
pure and simple disposition, a purified and sound taste, 
so as to feel those sublime and wonderful touches of 
divine love when it shall be divinely transformed ; all its 
former contrarieties actual and habitual being expelled. 

6. Moreover, in order to attain to the divine union, 
for which ihe dark night disposes it, the soul must be 
endowed and replenished with a certain glorious mag- 
nificence in the divine communication, which includes 
innumerable blessings and joys, surpassing all the 
abundance which the soul can naturally possess — so 
speak the prophet Isaias and S. Paul, * Eye hath not 
seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the 
heart of man what things God hath prepared for them 
that love Him,'t it is necessary for it that it should be 
first brought into a state of emptiness and spiritual 
poverty, detached from all help and consolation in all 
the things of heaven and earth, that being thus empty 
it may be really poor in spirit and divested of the old 
man, and may live that new and blessed life to which it 
attains in this dark night which is the state of union 
with God. 

7. And because the soul is to attain to the possession 
of a certain sense, and divine knowledge, most generous 
and full of sweetness, of all human and divine things 

* Tob. viii. 2. f Is. Ixiv. 4 ; i Cor. ii. 9. 


which do not fall within the common-sense and natural 
perceptions of the soul — it views them with different 
eyes now ; as the light and grace of the Holy Ghost 
differ from those of sense, the divine from the human — 
it is necessary that the spirit should be brought low, 
and inured to hardships in all that relates to the natural 
and common sense. It must suffer hardships and 
afflictions in the purgative contemplation, and the 
memory must become a stranger to all pleasing and 
peaceful knowledge, with a most interior sense and 
feeling of being a stranger and a pilgrim here, so that 
all things shall seem strange to it, and other than they 
were wont to seem. 

8. For this night is drawing the spirit away from its 
ordinary and common sense of things, that it may draw 
it towards the divine sense, which is a stranger and an 
alien to all human ways ; so much so that the soul 
seems to be carried out of itself. At other times it 
looks upon itself as if under the influence of some 
charm or spell, and is amazed at all that it hears and 
sees, which seem to it to be most strange and out of the 
way, though in reality they are as they usually are, the 
same. The reason is this : the soul has become a 
stranger to the ordinary sense of things, in order that 
being brought to nothing therein, it might be informed 
in the divine. Now this belongs more to the next life 
than to this. 


9. The soul suffers all these afflictive purgations of 
the spirit that it may be born again to the life of the 
spirit through the divine inflowing, and in these pangs 
bring forth the spirit of salvation, fulfilling the words 
of Isaias : ' So are we become in Thy presence, O Lord. 
We have conceived, and been as it were in labour, and 
"have brought forth the spirit '* of salvation. Moreover, 
as in the night of contemplation the soul is prepared 
for that tranquillity and inward peace which is such and 
so full of delight as, in the words of Scripture, to * pass 
all understanding,'! it is necessary for the soul that all 
its former peace, which, because involved in so many 
imperfections, was no peace, though it seemed to be a 
twofold peace, namely, of sense and spirit, because it 
was pleasing, should first of all be purified, and the soul 
withdrawn from and disturbed in that imperfect peace, 
as Jeremias felt and lamented in the words cited before 
to express the trials of the night that is now past, 
namely: * My soul is repelled from peace.' + 

10. This is a painful unsettling, full of misgivings, 
imaginations, and inward struggles, in which the soul, 
at the sight and in the consciousness of its own misery, 
imagines itself to be lost, and all its good to have 
perished for ever. In this state the spirit is pierced 
by sorrow so profound as to occasion strong spiritual 
groans and cries, to which at times it gives utterance, 

* Is. xxvi. 17, 18. t Phil. iv. 7. X Lam. iii. 17. 


and tears break forth, if there be any strength left for 
them, though this relief is but rarely granted. The 
royal prophet David has well described this state, being 
one who had great experience of it, saying, * I am 
afflicted and humbled exceedingly ; I roared with the 
groaning of my heart.'* This roaring proceeds from 
great pain ; for sometimes the sudden and sharp recol- 
lection of the miseries that environ the soul, makes it 
feel such pain and grief that I know not how it can be 
explained otherwise than by the words of Job : ' as 
overflowing waters so is my roaring. 't For as waters 
sometimes overflow, drown and fill all places, so this 
roaring, and sense of pain, become occasionally so 
strong as to flow over and into the soul, filling all its 
deepest affections and energies with spiritual pain and 
sorrow which defy all exaggeration. 

11. Such is the work wrought in the soul by this 
night that hideth the hopes of the light of day. It was 
in reference to it that Job said, ' In the night my mouth 
is pierced with sorrows, and they that feed upon me do 
not sleep.'J The mouth here is the will, pierced by 
these sorrows which cease not to tear the soul, neither 
do they sleep, for the doubts and misgivings which 
harass it are never at rest. 

12. This warfare and combat are deep, because the 
peace hoped for is most deep : the spiritual sorrow is 

* Ps. xxxvii. 9. t Job iii. 24. t Job xxx. 17. 


interior, refined, and pure, because the love to be 
enjoyed must be also most interior and pure. The 
more interior and perfect the work, the more interior, 
perfect, and pure must the labour be that produces it ; 
and the stronger the building, the more solid it is. 
' My soul fadeth within myself,' saith Job, * and the 
days of affliction possess me.* So, in the same way, 
because the soul has to attain to the enjoyment and 
possession, in the state of perfection to which it journeys 
in this purgative night, of innumerable blessings, of 
gifts, and virtues, both in the substance of the soul and 
in the powers thereof, it is necessary that it should first 
consider and feel itself generally a stranger to and 
deprived of them all, and regard them as so far beyond 
its reach as to be persuaded that it never can attain to 
them, and that all goodness is perished from it. This 
is the meaning of those words of Jeremias, ' I have 
forgotten good things. t 

13. Let us now see why the light of contemplation, 
so sweet and lovely to the soul that nothing is more 
desirable — for it is that, as I said before,* whereby the 
divine union takes place, and whereby the soul in the 
state of perfection finds all the good it desires — produces, 
when it strikes the soul, these painful beginnings and 
terrible effects. The answer is easy, and is already 
given in part ; there is nothing in contemplation and 

* Job XXX. 16. f Lam. iii. 17. t Bk. ii. ch. v. §§ i, 2. 


the divine inflowing, to cause pain, but rather much 
sweetness and joy, as the soul will find later. The 
cause is the imperfection and weakness of the soul, and 
dispositions not fit for the reception of this sweetness. 
And so, when the divine light beats upon the soul, it 
makes it suffer in the way described. 


Explanation of this purgation by a comparison. 

To make what I have said, and what I have still to say,^ 
more clear, it is w^ell to observe here that this purgative 
and loving knowledge, or divine light, of which I have 
spoken, is to the soul which it is purifying, in order to 
unite it perfectly to itself, as fire is to fuel which it is 
transforming into itself. The first action of material 
fire on fuel is to dry it, to expel from it all water and all 
moisture. It blackens it at once and soils it, and drying 
it by little and little, makes it light and consumes all its 
foulness and blackness which are contrary to itself. 
Finally, having heated and set on fire its outward 
surface, it transforms the whole into itself, and makes it 
beautiful as itself. The fuel under these conditions 
retains neither active nor passive qualities of its own, 
except bulk and weight, and assumes all the properties 
and acts of fire. It becomes dry, being dry it glows,. 


and glowing, burns ; luminous, it gives light, and burns 
more quickly than before. All this is the property and 
effect of fire. 

2. It is in this way we have to reason about the 
divine fire of contemplative love which, before it unites 
with, and transforms the soul into, itself, purges away 
all its contrary qualities. It expels its impurities, 
blackens it and obscures it, and thus its condition is 
apparently worse than it was before. For while the 
divine purgation is removing all the evil and vicious 
humours, which, because so deeply rooted and settled in 
the soul, were neither seen nor felt, but now in order to 
their expulsion and annihilation, are rendered clearly 
visible in the dim light of the divine contemplation, the 
soul — though not worse in itself, nor in the sight of God 
— seeing at last what it never saw before, looks upon 
itself not only as unworthy of His regard, but even as a 
loathsome object and that God does loathe it. By this 
comparison we shall be able to understand much that I 
have said, and purpose to say. 

3. In the first place, we can see how that very light, 
and that loving knowledge which unites the soul and 
transforms it into itself, is the same which purifies and 
prepares it ; for the fire that transforms the fuel and 
incorporates it with itself, is the very same which also 
at the first prepared it for that end. 

4. In the second place, we may see that these 


sufferings of the soul do not proceed from the divine 
wisdom — it being written, ' All good things came to me 
together with her/* — but from its own weakness and 
imperfection, being incapable, previous to its purgation, 
of receiving this divine light, sweetness, and delight ; 
and that is the reason why its sufferings are so great. 
The fuel is not transformed into fire, at the instant of 
their contact, if it be not previously prepared for 

5. This is the experience of the Wise Man, who 
thus describes his sufferings before his union with, and 
possession of, wisdom : ' My soul hath wrestled in it. 
. . My belly was troubled in seeking it ; therefore 
shall I possess a good possession.'! 

6. In the third place we learn by the way how souls 
suffer in purgatory. The fire would have no power over 
them if they were perfectly prepared for the kingdom of 
God, and union with Him in glory, and if they had no 
faults for which they must suffer, for these are the 
matter on which that fire seizes ; when that matter is 
consumed there is nothing more to burn. So is it here, 
when all imperfections are removed, the suffering of the 
soul ceases, and in its place comes joy as deep as it is 
possible for it to be in this life. 

7. In the fourth place, we learn that the soul, the 
more it is purified and cleansed in the fire of love, the 

* Wisd. vii. II. t Ecclus. li. 25 — 29. 

CHAP. X.] OF THE SOUL. 1 1 1 

more it glows with it. The better the fuel is prepared 
for the fire the better it burns. The soul, however, is 
not always conscious of this burning of love within it, 
but only now and then, when the contemplation is less 
profound, for the soul is then able to observe, and even 
to delight in, the work that is being wrought, because 
it is visible ; the hand of the artificer seems to be with- 
drawn from the work, and the iron taken out of the 
furnace, so as to show in some measure the work that is 
being wrought. Then, too, the soul is able to see in 
itself that good which it did not see while the process 
was going on. Thus, when the flame ceases to envelop 
the fuel, it is possible to see clearly how much of it has 
been burnt. 

8. In the fifth place, we shall also find by this 
comparison that which has been said before,* namely, 
how true it is that after these consolations, the soul 
suffers again more intensely and keenly than it did 
before. For after the manifestation of the work that 
has been done, when the more outward imperfections 
have been expelled, the fire of love returns again to 
purge and consume that which is more interior. The 
suffering of the soul herein becomes more penetrating, 
deep, and spiritual, according as it refines away the 
more profound, subtle, and deeply rooted interior im- 
perfections of the spirit. It is here as with the fuel in 

* Ch. vii. § 9. 


the fire, the deeper the fire penetrates the greater is its 
force and energy in disposing the inmost substance of 
the fuel for its own possession of it. 

9. In the sixth place, we shall learn that the soul, 
though it rejoices intensely in these intervals of peace 
— so much so that it seems at times, as we have said, to 
think its trials over, never to return, even while it is 
certain that they will soon return — cannot but feel, if it 
observes a single root of imperfection behind — and 
sometimes it must do so — that its joy is not full. It 
seems as if that root threatened to spring up anew, and 
when that is so, it does so quickly. 

10. Pinally, that which still remains to be purified 
and enlightened within cannot well be concealed from 
the soul in the presence of that which has been already 
purified ; so also that portion of the fuel which is still 
to be set on fire is very different from that which the 
fiame has purified. And when this purgation com- 
mences anew in the inmost soul, it is not strange that 
it should consider all its goodness to have perished, and 
think that it can never recover its former prosperity; 
for in most interior sufterings all outward goodness is 
hidden from it. 

11. Keeping this comparison, then, before our eyes, 
with that which I have already said,* on the first line of 
this stanza, concerning this dark night and its fearful 

* Ch. iii. 


characteristics, it may be well to leave the subject of 
these afflictions of the soul, and to enter on the matter 
of the fruit of its tears and their blessed properties, of 
which the soul sings in the second line. 


Begins the explanation of the second line of the first, and 

shows how a vehement passion of divine love is the fruit of 

these sharp afflictions of the soul. 

With anxious love inflamed. 

In this line the soul speaks of the fire of love of which 
we have spoken,* and which, in the night of painful 
contemplation, seizes upon it as material fire on the 
fuel it burns. This burning, though in a certain way- 
resembling that which, as we explained before,t takes 
place in the sensual part of the soul, is still, in one 
sense, as different from this, of which I am now 
speaking, as the soul is from the body, the spiritual 
from the sensual. For this is a certain fire of love in 
the spirit whereby the soul, amidst these dark trials, 
feels itself wounded to the quick by this strong love 
divine with a certain sense and foretaste of God, though 
it understands nothing distinctly, because, as I have 
said,:!: the understanding is in darkness. 

* Ch. X. t Bk. I, ch. viii. § i. + Ch. ix. § 3. 


2. The spirit is now conscious of deep love, for this 
spiritual burning produces the passion of it. And 
inasmuch as this love is infused in a special way, the 
soul corresponds only passively with it, and thus a 
strong passion of love is begotten within it. This love 
has in it something of the most perfect union with God, 
and thus partakes in some measure of its properties, 
which are more especially actions of God received in 
the soul rather than of the soul, consenting unto them 
in simplicity and love. 

3. But this warmth and force and temper and passion 
of love, or burning, as the soul calls it, are solely the 
work of God Who is entering into union with it. The 
more the desires are restrained, subdued, and disabled 
for the enjoyment of the things of heaven and earth, the 
more room does this love find in the soul, and better the 
dispositions for its reception, so that it may unite itself 
with that soul, and wound it. This takes place, as has 
been said before,* during the dark purgation in a 
wonderful way, for God has so weaned the faculties, and 
they are now so recollected in Him, that they are unable 
to take pleasure as they like in anything whatever. 

4. All this is the work of God ; wrought with a view 
to withdraw the faculties of the soul from all objects 
whatever, and to concentrate them upon Himself, that 
the soul may acquire greater strength and fitness for the 

* Bk. I, ch. i., § 2. 


Strong union of love of God which He is communicating- 
in the purgative way ; and in which the soul must love 
Him with all its strength and desire of sense and spirit, 
which it could never do if the faculties thereof were 
dissipated by other satisfactions. The Psalmist, there- 
fore, that he might be able to receive this strong love of 
the union with God, said unto Him, ' I will keep my 
strength for Thee ; '* that is, all my capacity and desires, 
the strength of my faculties, neither will I suffer them 
to do or rejoice in anything but Thee. 

5. Here we may perceive, in some degree, how great 
and how vehement is this burning of love in the spirit 
when God gathers and collects together all the strength, 
faculties, and desires of the soul, both spiritual and 
sensual, so that all this unison may use all its energies 
and all its forces in this love, and so come to satisfy 
truly, and in perfection, the first commandment, which, 
neglecting nothing that belongs to man, and shutting 
out nothing that is his from this love, saith, namely, 
' Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole 
heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole 
strength. 't 

6. When all the desires and energies of the soul are 
thus recollected in this burning of love, and the soul 
itself touched, wounded, and set on fire with love, in 
them all, what must the movements and affections of 

* Ps. Iviii. 10. f Deut. vi. 5. 


these desires and energies be when they are thus 
wounded and burning in this strong love, when that 
love does not satiate them, when they are in darkness 
and doubt about it, and suffering also, beyond all 
question, a more grievous hunger, in proportion to the 
past experience of God ? For the touch of this love and 
of the divine fire so dries up the spirit, and enkindles its 
longing to satisfy its thirst, that it turns upon itself a 
thousand times, and longs for God in a thousand ways, 
as David did when he said, ' For Thee my soul hath 
thirsted, for Thee my flesh, O how many ways ; '* that 
is, in desire. Another version reads, ' My soul thirsteth 
after Thee, my soul is dying for Thee.' 

7. This is the reason why the soul says, 'With 
anxious love inflamed.' In all its works and thoughts, 
in all its employments and on every occasion, the soul 
loves and longs in many ways, and this longing also is 
manifold in its forms, always and everywhere present ; 
the soul has no rest, feeling itself to be wounded, and on 
fire with anxious love ; its state is thus described by 
holy Job : ' As a servant desireth the shadow, as the 
hired man tarrieth for the end of his work, so I also 
have had vain months, and have numbered to myself 
laborious nights. If I sleep, I shall say, ' When shall 
I arise r and again I shall expect the evening, and 
shall be replenished with sorrows even until dark- 

* Ps. Ixii. 2. 

CHAP. XI.] OF THE SOUL. 1 1 7 

ness.'* The soul is discontented with itself, with 
heaven and with earth, being replenished with sorrows 
even until the darkness of which Job is here speaking. 
That darkness, speaking in a spiritual sense, and 
according to the matter which I am discussing, is 
distress and suffering without the comfort of any certain 
hope of any light and spiritual good. 

8. The anxieties and sufferings of the soul while 
thus on fire with love are the greater, because of their 
twofold origin : the spiritual darkness which envelops 
it is one, and that afflicts it with doubts and misgivings. 
The love of God which sets it on fire is the other, which 
stirs it with the wound of love and makes it burn 
marvellously. These two kinds of suffering are thus 
referred to by Isaias, being in a like condition : ' My 
soul hath desired Thee in the night ; ' that is, in misery. 
This is one kind of pain which proceeds from the dark 
night, ' Yea, and with my spirit in my heart I will 
watch to Thee in the morning.'f This is the other 
kind of suffering in desire and anxiety, which pro- 
ceeds from love, in the bowels of the spirit ; that 
is, the spiritual affections. The soul, however, amidst 
these gloomy and loving pains, is conscious of a 
certain companionship and inward strength which 
attends upon it and so invigorates it that if the 
burden of this oppressive darkness be removed, it 

* Job vii. 2-4. f Is. xxvi. 9. 


oftentimes feels itself desolate, empty, and weak. The 
reason is that the force and courage communicated 
to the soul flow passively from the dark fire of love 
which assails it, and so, when that fire ceases to assail 
it, the darkness, the strength, and fire of love at the 
same time cease in the soul. 


Shows how this awful night is a purgatory, and how in it 
the divine wisdom illuminates men on earth with that light 
in which the angels are purified and enlightened in heaven. 

What I have said will enable us to see how the dark 
night of loving fire purifies in the darkness, and how the 
soul in the darkness is set on fire. We shall also see 
that, as the dark and material fires in the next life, so 
the loving, dark, and spiritual fires here, purify and 
cleanse the predestinate. The difference is that in the 
next world they are purified by fire, and here, purified 
and enlightened by love. David prayed for this love 
when he said, ' Create a clean heart in me, O God ! '* 
for cleanness of heart is nothing else but the love and 
grace of God. ' The clean of heart,' are called blessed 
by our Saviour, and it is as if He had said, blessed are 
those who love, for blessedness can come of nothing less 
than love. 

* Ps. 1. 12. 


2. The following words of Jeremias, ' From on high 
He hath cast a fire in my bones, and hath taught me,'* 
show plainly that the soul is purified when it is 
enlightened in the fire of loving wisdom, for God never 
grants the mystical wisdom without love ; it being love 
itself that infuses it into the soul. David also saith 
that the wisdom of God is silver tried in the purifying 
fire of love ; ' words of our Lord are chaste words, 
silver examined by fire,'t for the dim contemplation 
infuses into the soul love and wisdom, in every one 
according to its necessity and capacity, enlightening 
the soul, and cleansing it of all its ignorances, 
according to the words of the Wise Man, ' He hath 
enlightened my ignorances. J 

3. Here, also, we learn that the wisdom which 
purifies the ignorances of the angels, flowing from God 
through the highest, down to the lowest, in the order 
of the heavenly hierarchy, and thence to men, is that 
very wisdom which purifies these souls and enlightens 
them. All the works of the angels, and all the inspira- 
tions they suggest, are, therefore, in Holy Scripture, 
truly and properly said to be their work and God's 
work : for, ordinarily, His inspirations come through 
the angels ; they receiving them one from another 

* Lam. i. 13. j P^- ^^- 7- 

[* ' Ignorantias meas illuminavit. These words have been ex- 
punged from Ecclus. li. 26, by the Roman censure.] 


instantaneously,* as the light of the sun penetrates 
many windows at once, arranged one behind the other. 
For though it is true that the light of the sun pierces 
all, yet each window conveys and pours that light into 
the next, somewhat modified, according to the nature of 
the glass, somewhat weaker and fainter, according to 
the distance from the sun. 

4. Hence it follows, with respect to the higher and 
lower angels, the nearer they are to God the more they 
are purified and enlightened in the general purgation ; 
the lowest in rank receiving their illumination in a 
less perfect degree. But man, being lower than the 
angels, must, when God raises him to the state of 
contemplation, receive that enlightenment according to 
his capacity in a limited degree, and with suffering. 
For the light of God which illumines an angel enlightens 
him, and sets him on fire with love, for he is a spirit 
already prepared for the infusion of that light ; but 
man, being impure and weak, is ordinarily enlightened, 
as I said before,t in darkness, in distress and pain — the 
sun's rays are painful in their light to weak eyes — till 
the fire of love, purifying him, shall have spiritualised 
and refined him, so that being made pure he may be 

[* Scot. 2. Sent, dist 10, qu unic. Secundum communem pro- 
cessum et ordinem revelantur majoraDei mysteria superioribus prius- 
quam inferioribus, et ita superiores mittuntur ad inferiores, loquendo 
et illuminando eos interius, et alii inferiores mittuntur exterius ad ilia 
revelata nuncianda hominibus vel explenda.] 

t Ch. X. § I. 


able to receive with sweetness, like the angels, the 
union of this inflowing love ; for, as we shall explain, 
with the help of our Lord, there are souls who, in this 
life, are more perfectly enlightened than even the 
angels. But, in the meantime, this contemplation and 
loving knowledge come upon the soul through trials 
and loving anxiety, of which I am now speaking. 

5. The soul is not always conscious of this burning 
and anxious love ; for in the beginning of the spiritual 
purgation all the divine fire is employed in drying up 
and preparing the soul, rather than in setting it on fire. 
But when the soul has become heated in the fire, it then 
feels most commonly this burning and warmth of love. 
And now, as the understanding is being purified more 
and more in this darkness, it happens occasionally that 
this mystical and affective theology, while inflaming the 
will, wounds also by enlightening the other faculty of 
the understanding with a certain divine light and know- 
ledge, so sweetly and so divinely, that the will, aided by 
it, glows in a marvellous manner, the divine fire of love 
burning within it with living flames, so that the soul 
appears to have received a living fire with a living 
understanding. This is what David referred to when 
he said, ' My heart waxed hot within me, and in my 
meditation a fire shall burn,* so vehemently that I 
thought it to be alread}^ on fire.' 

* Ps. xxxviii. 4. 


6. This kindling of love, in the union of these two 
powers, the understanding and the will, is to the soul a 
great treasure and delight, because it is certain that the 
foundations of the perfection of the union of love, for 
which the soul hopes, are now laid in that darkness. 
Thus the soul does not reach this sublime sense and love 
of God without passing through many tribulations, and 
accomplishing a great part of its purgation. But for 
other degrees of this union, lower than this, which are 
of ordinary occurrence, so intense a purgation is not 


Other sweet effects wrought in the soul in the dark night of 

By the expression 'burning' we understand some of the 
sweet effects which are wrought in the soul by the dark 
night of contemplation ; for occasionally, amid the 
darkness, the soul receives light — ' light shineth in 
darkness '* — the mystical inflowing streaming directly 
into the understanding, and the will in some measure 
partaking of it, with a calmness and pureness so exquisite 
and so delicious to the soul as to be utterly indescribable : 
now God is felt to be present in one way, and again in 
another. Sometimes, too, it wounds the will at the same 
time, and enkindles love deeply, tenderly, and strongly ; 
* St. John i. 5. 


for, as I have said, the more the understanding is 
purified the more perfectly and delicate, at times, is the 
union of the understanding- and the will. But, before the 
soul attains to this state, it is more common for the 
touch of the fire of love to be felt in the will than for 
the touch of the perfect intelligence to be felt in the 

2. This burning, and thirst of love, inasmuch as it 
now proceeds from the Holy Ghost, is very different from 
that of which I spoke in describing the night of sense.* 
For though sense also has now its part in this, because 
it cannot but share in the afflictions of the spirit ; yet the 
root and living force of the thirst of love are felt in the 
higher part of the soul, that is, in the spirit. The spirit 
perceives and understands what it feels, and that it 
possesses not that which it longs for, so that it counts 
as nothing all the pain it feels, though it is beyond 
comparison greater than the pain of the first night, which 
is the night of sense ; for it thoroughly understands that 
one great good is absent, and that there is no remedy 

3. It may be observed here that, although at first, in 
the beginning of the spiritual night, this burning love is 
not felt because the fire of love has not yet done its work, 
God communicates to the soul, instead of it, a reverent 
love of Himself so great that, as I have said,t the 

* Bk. I, ch. xi. § 2. t Ch. v. § 7. 


heaviest trials and deepest afflictions of this night are 
the distressing- thought that it has lost God, and that He 
has abandoned it. It may, therefore, be always said that 
from the beginning of this night the soul is full of the 
anxieties of love, at one time that of reverence, at 
another that of burning. It is evident that the greatest 
of its sufferings is this doubt : for if it could be per- 
suaded that all is not lost and over, and that the trials 
it undergoes are, as in truth they are, for its greater 
good, and that God is not angry, it would make no 
account whatever of all these afflictions ; on the con- 
trary, it would rejoice, knowing that by them it is 
serving God. 

4. This reverential love of God is so strong in the 
soul — though in the darkness and unaware of it — that 
it would be glad not only to endure its trials, but also to 
die a thousand deaths to serve Him. But when the fire 
of love and the reverent love of God together have set 
the soul in a flame, it is wont to gain such strength and 
energy, and such eager longing after God — effects of 
this glowing love — that it boldly disregards all con- 
siderations, and sets everything aside, in the inebriating 
force of love, and, without much consideration of its 
acts, it conducts itself strangely and extravagantly in 
every way that it may come to Him whom the soul 

5. This is the reason why Mary Magdalene, though 


SO noble, heeded not the many guests, high and low, 
who were feasting, as we read in St. Luke, in the house 
of the Pharisee. She considered not that she was not 
welcome, and that tears were unseemly at the feast, 
provided she could, without an hour's delay, or waiting 
for another occasion, reach Him for whom her soul was 
wounded and on fire.* This is that inebriating and 
daring force of love, which, when she knew that her 
Love was in the sepulchre, guarded by soldiers, and a 
stone rolled over it and sealed, allowed none of these 
things to move her; for she went thither before dawn 
with the ointments to anoint her Beloved. And, finally, 
it was under the inebriating influence and anxieties of 
love that she asked Himself, Whom she took for the 
gardener, who, she thought, had robbed the sepulchre, 
to tell her, if he had taken Him away, where he had laid 
Him. ' If thou hast carried Him away, tell me where 
thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.'f She 
did not reflect upon the imprudence of her words ; for 
it is clear that if the gardener had stolen the Body he 
would not have told her, still less would he have allowed 
her to take Him away. 

6. Ihis conduct of Mary Magdalene proceeded from 

the vehemence and energy of her love : for love thinks 

all things possible, and that all are of the same mind 

with itself ; for it cannot believe that there is anything 

* St. Luke vii. 37. f St. John xx. 15. 


to occupy men, or anything to be sought for by them, 
except that which itself seeks and loves ; it considers 
that there can be no other occupation or desire except 
its own. Thus, when the bride went out into the streets 
and highways seeking her beloved, she, believing that 
all were employed, like herself, in searching for him, 
adjured them, if they found him, to tell him that she 
languished with love.* 

7. So strong was Mary's love that she intended, if 
the gardener had told her where he had hidden our Lord, 
to go and take Him away, in spite of any prohibition. Of 
this kind are those anxieties of love which the soul feels 
when it has made some progress in the spiritual 
purgation. The soul rises by night — that is, in the 
purifying darkness — in the affections of the will. As a 
lioness or a bear, robbed of its whelps, whom it cannot 
find, seeks them anxiously and earnestly, so does the 
wounded soul seek after God. Being in darkness, it 
feels His absence, and is dying of love. This is that 
impatient love which no man can endure long without 
obtaining his wishes or dying. It is like Rachel's 
longing for children, when she said to Jacob, ' Give me 
children, otherwise I shall die.'f 

8. We have now to consider how it is that the soul, 
conscious of its own misery and unworthiness before 
God, can be so bold, amid the purifying darkness, as to 

* Cant. iii. 2 v. 8. f Gen. xxx. i. 


aspire after union with Him. The reason is, that love 
gives it strength to love in earnest, it being the nature 
of love to seek for union, companionship, equality with, 
and likeness to the object beloved, so as to attain to the 
perfection of itself. Hence it is that the soul not yet 
made perfect in love, because it has not attained to 
union, hungers and thirsts for that which it has not 
— namely, union ; and the strength which love com- 
municates to the will, which is on fire, renders it bold and 
daring as to the will, though as to the understanding, 
because that is in darkness, it feels itself to be an 
unworthy and miserable object. 

9. I must not omit here to say why it is that the 
divine light, being always light to the soul, does not 
illumine it the moment it strikes it, as it does at a later 
time, instead of bringing with it the darkness and 
misery of which I am speaking.* Something has been 
already said, but I now speak of it directly. The 
darkness and other miseries of which the soul is 
conscious proceed not from the divine light when it 
strikes the soul, but from the soul itself, and it is the 
light which enables it to see them. The divine light 
gives light at once, but the soul sees nothing at first but 
that which is immediately before it, or rather within 
itself ; its own darkness and misery, which, by the 
mercy of God, it sees now, and formerly saw not, 

* Ch. ix. § I. 


because this supernatural light had not been granted it. 

10. This is the reason why, in the beginning, the 
soul is conscious of nothing but of darkness and misery. 
But when it has been purified by the knowledge and 
sense of its misery it will have eyes to discern the 
blessings of the divine light, and being delivered and 
set free from all darkness and imperfections, the great 
blessings and profit will become known which the soul 
is gaining for itself in this blessed night. 

11. This shows how great is the mercy of God to 
the soul when He thus purifies it in this strong lye and 
bitter purgation, as to its sensual and spiritual part, 
from all its affections and imperfect habits in all that 
relates to time, nature, sense, and spirit ; by darkening 
its interior faculties, and emptying them of all objects, 
by correcting and drying up all affections of sense and 
spirit, by weakening and wasting the natural forces 
which the soul never could have done of itself as we 
shall immediately show. God makes it die, in this 
way, to all that is not God, that, being denuded and 
stripped of its former clothing, it may clothe itself 
anew. Thus the soul's ' youth shall be renewed like 
the eagle's,'* clothed with ' the new man, which, in the 
words of the Apostle, is created according to God in 

1 2. Now this is nothing else but the supernatural 

* Ps. cii. 5. I Ephes. iv. 24. 


light giving light to the understanding, so that the 
human understanding becomes divine, made one with 
the divine. In the same way divine love inflames the 
will so that it becomes nothing less than divine, 
loving in a divine way, united and made one with the 
divine will and divine love. The memory is affected in 
Tike manner ; all the desires and affections also are 
changed divinely according to God. Thus the soul will 
be of heaven, heavenly, divine rather than human. 

13. All this, as is clear from what I have said, is the 
work of God in the soul, during this night, enlightening 
it and setting it on fire in a divine way with an anxious 
solicitude for God alone, and for nought besides. 

14. It is with great propriety and justice, therefore, 
that the soul repeats the third line of the stanza, which, 
together with those that follow, I repeat again and 
explain in the following chapter. 


Repeats and explains the last three lines of the first stanza. 

O happy lot ! 

Forth unobserved I went, 

I\Iy house being now at rest. 

The happy lot of which the soul is singing in the first of 

these three lines befel it through those means of which it 

speaks in the two lines that follow it ; making use of a 

metaphor, it describes itself as one who, for the better 



execution of his purpose, goes out of his house by night, 
in the dark, the inmates of which are at rest, in order 
that none might hinder him. The soul having to 
perform so heroic and so rare an act, that of being united 
to the divine Beloved, sallies forth, because the Beloved 
is to be found only without, in solitude. The bride 
therefore desired to find him alone, saying : ' Who shall 
give Thee to me for my brother, sucking the breasts of 
my mother, that I may find Thee without and kiss 
Thee?'* It is necessary for the enamoured soul, in 
order to obtain the end desired, to act in the same way ; 
to go out by night when all the inmates of its house 
repose and sleep ; that is, when its lower operations, 
passions, and desires are at rest and asleep in this night. 
These are the inmates of its house which when awake 
ever hinder its good, enemies of its freedom. These are 
they of whom our Saviour said in the holy gospel, 'A 
man's enemies shall be they of his own household.' f 

2. Thus it is necessary that their operations and 
motions should be lulled to sleep in this night in order 
that they may be no hindrance to the supernatural 
blessings of union with God in love, for while they 
continue to energise and act, that is unattainable. All 
movement and action on their part, instead of helping, 
hinder the reception of the spiritual blessings of the union 
of love, because all natural exertion is defective with 

* Cant. viii. i. f St. Matt. x. 36. 


regard to those supernatural blessings which God alone 
secretly and silently infuses into the passive soul. Hence 
it is necessary that the powers of the soul should be at 
rest, if it is to receive what God infuses, and should not 
interfere with their own inferior actions and base 

3. It was a happy lot for the soul when God in this 
night put all its household to sleep, that is, all the 
powers, passions, affections, and desires of the sensual 
and spiritual soul, that it may attain to the spiritual 
union of the perfect love of God ' unobserved,' that is, 
unhindered by them, because they were all asleep and 
mortified in that night. O how happy must the soul 
then be, when it can escape from the house of its 
sensuality ! None can understand it, I think, except 
that soul which has experienced it. That soul clearly 
sees how wretched was its former slavery, and how 
great its misery when it lay at the mercy of its passions 
and desires ; it learns now that the life of the spirit is 
true liberty and riches, with innumerable blessings in its 
train, some of which I shall speak of while explaining 
the following stanzas, when it will more clearly appear, 
what good reasons the soul has for describing the 
passage of this awful night as a happy lot. 



The second stanza and its explanation. 

In darkness and in safety, 
By the secret ladder, disguised, 
O happy lot ! 

In darkness and concealment, 
My house being now at rest. 

In this stanza the soul goes on singing still of certain 
properties of the darkness of this night, speaking again 
of the happy lot which befel it through them. It speaks 
of them in answering an implied objection, observing 
that no one is to think that because in this dark night it 
passed through so many storms of affliction, doubt, fear 
and horror, as I said before,* it had therefore run any 
risk of being lost ; yea rather, it found safety in the 
darkness, because in the darkness it was free and 
skilfully escaped from its enemies who were ever 
hindering its departure. 

2. In the darkness of the night it changed its 
garments, and disguised itself in three colours, of which 
I shall speak hereafter, f It sallied forth unknown to 
the whole of its household by a most secret ladder, 
which, as I shall show in the proper place, is a living 
faith — in such secrecy and silence, for the better 
execution of its purpose, that it could not possibly be 
in greater security ; especially now, because in the 
purgative night, the desires, passions, and affections of 

* Ch. V. § 8. t Ch. xxi. 


the soul are asleep, mortified, and subdued ; and these 
are they which, awake and active, would never have 
consented to that departure. 


Showeth how the soul journeys securely when in darkness. 

In darkness and in safety. 

The darkness of which the soul here speaks, relates, as 
I have said,* to the desires and powers of sense, interior 
and spiritual, all of which are deprived of their natural 
light in this night, that, being purified as to this, 
they may be supernaturally enlightened. The desires of 
sense and spirit are lulled to sleep and mortified, unable 
to relish anything either human or divine • the affections 
of the soul are thwarted and brought low, become 
helpless, and have nothing to rest upon ; the imagina- 
tion is fettered, and unable to make any profitable 
reflections, the memory is gone, and the will, too, is dry 
and afflicted, and all the faculties are empty, and, more- 
over, a dense and heavy cloud overshadows the soul, 
distresses it and holds it as if it were far away from God. 
This is the darkness in which the soul says that it 
travels in safety. 

2. The reason of this safety has been clearly shown : 
for usually the soul never errs, except under the influence 

* Ch. iii. 


of its desires, or tastes, or reflections, or understanding, 
or affections, wherein it generally is overabundant, or 
defective, changeable, or inconsistent ; hence the in- 
clination to that which is not becoming. It is therefore 
clear that the soul is secure against being led astray by 
them, when all these operations and movements have 
ceased. Because then the soul is delivered, not only 
from itself, but also from its other enemies — the world 
and the devil — who, when the affections and operations 
of the soul have ceased, cannot assault it by any other 
way or by any other means. 

3. It follows from this, that the greater the darkness 
and emptiness of its natural operations in which the soul 
travels, the greater is its security. For as the prophet 
saith, ' Perdition is thine own, O Israel ; only in Me is 
thy help.'* The perdition of the soul is exclusively its 
own work — the result of its own operations, of its 
unsubdued desires, interior and sensual — and its salva- 
tion, saith God, cometh from Me only. When the soul 
is hindered from giving way to its imperfections there 
descend upon it forthwith the blessings of union with 
God, in its desires and faculties which that union will 
render heavenly and divine. 

4. If, therefore, while this darkness lasts, the soul will 
look within, it will very clearly see how slightly the 
desires and the faculties have been diverted towards vain 

* Os. xiii. 9. 


and unprofitable matters, and that it is secure itself 
against vainglory, pride and presumption, empty- 
rejoicing, and many other evils. It is quite clear, there- 
fore, that the soul which is in this darkness is not only 
not lost, but that it gains much, for now it acquires 

5. But here a question arises : Why is it — seeing that 
the things of God are profitable and beneficial to the 
soul, and a source of security — that the desires and 
faculties are so darkened by Him in this night that they 
cannot have any joy in spiritual things or occupy them- 
selves with them as with other things, but are, in some 
way, less able to do so ? To this I reply, that it is then 
very necessary for the soul not to act and be devoid of 
pleasure even in spiritual things, seeing that its faculties 
and desires are base and impure ; and even if they have 
pleasure in, and are familiar with, divine and super- 
natural things, that can be only in a mean way. 

6. It is a philosophical axiom that all that is received 
is received according- to the condition of the recipient. 
From this it follows that the natural faculties — being 
without the requisite purity, strength, and capacity for 
the reception and fruition of divine things in their way, 
which is divine, but only in their own, which is mean 
and vile — must be in darkness with regard to the divine 
way, so as to secure their perfect purgation. That being 
weaned, purified, and brought to nothing, they may lose 


their own mode of acting and receiving, and may be 
thus disposed and tempered for the reception and 
fruition of that which is divine in a high and noble way ; 
which cannot be if the old man do not die first. Hence 
it is that all spiritual graces if they do not descend from 
the Father of lights upon the human will and desire, 
however much a man may exercise his taste, desire, and 
faculties about God, and however much he may seem to 
succeed, are still not divinely nor perfectly enjoyed. 

7. As to this I might here show, were this the proper 
place, that there are many whose tastes and affections, 
and the operations of whose faculties are directed to God 
and to spiritual things, who may imagine all this to be 
supernatural and spiritual, when in reality it is nothing 
more, perhaps, than acts and desires most natural and 
human. As they regard ordinary matters, so also do 
they regard good things, with a certain natural facility 
which they have in directing their faculties and desires 
to anything, whatever it may be. If I can find an 
opportunity in the course of this discussion, I propose to 
enter upon this question,* and describe some of the signs 
by which we may know when the motives and interior 
acts of the soul in the things of God are natural only, 
when they are spiritual only, and when they are natural 
and spiritual together. It is enough for us here to know 
that the interior acts and movements of the soul, if they 

* Living Flame, St. iii. Bk. 4. 


are to be divinely influenced by God, must be first of all 
lulled to sleep, darkened and subdued, in their natural 
state, so far as their capacity and operations are con- 
cerned, until they lose all their strength. 

8. O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire 
obscured, thy will arid and constrained, and thy faculties 
incapable of any interior act, be not grieved at this, but 
look upon it rather as a great good, for God is delivering 
thee from thyself, taking the matter out of thy hands ; 
for however strenuously thou may est exert thyself, thou 
wilt never do anything so faultlessly, perfectly, and 
securely as now — because of the impurity and torpor of 
thy faculties — when God, taking thee by the hand, is 
guiding thee in the dark as one that is blind, along 
a road and to an end thou knowest not, and whither 
thou couldst never travel by the help of thine own eyes 
and thine own feet, however strong thou mayest be. 

9. The reason why the soul not only travels securely 
when it thus travels in the dark, but makes even greater 
progress, is this : In general the soul makes greater 
progress when it least thinks so, yea, most frequently 
when it imagines that it is losing. Having never before 
experienced the present novelty which dazzles it, and 
disturbs its former habits, it considers itself as losing, 
rather than as gaining ground, when it sees itself lost in 
a place it once knew, and in which it delighted, travelling 
by a road it knows not, and in which it has no pleasure. 


As a traveller into strange countries goes by ways 
strange and untried, relying on information derived from 
others, and not upon any knowledge of his own — it is 
clear that he will never reach a new country but by new 
ways which he knows not, and by abandoning those he 
knew — so in the same way the soul makes the greater 
progress when it travels in the dark, not knowing the 
way. But inasmuch as God Himself is here the guide 
of the soul in its blindness, the soul may well exult and 
say, ' In darkness and in safety,' now that it has come to 
a knowledge of its state. 

10. There is another reason also why the soul has 
travelled safely in this obscurity ; it has suffered : for 
the way of suffering is safer, and also more profitable, 
than that of rejoicing and of action. In suffering God 
gives strength, but in action and in joy the soul does 
but show its own weakness and imperfections. And in 
suffering, the soul practises and acquires virtue, and 
becomes pure, wiser, and more cautious. 

11. There is another and stronger reason why the 
soul travels securely when in darkness. This reason is 
derived from the consideration of the light itself, or dark 
wisdom. The dark night of contemplation so absorbs 
the soul, and brings it so near unto God, that He 
defends it, and delivers it from all that is not God. For 
the soul is now, as it were, under medical treatment for 
the recovery of its health, which is God Himself : God 


compels it to observe a particular diet, and to abstain 
from all hurtful things, the very desire for them being 
subdued. The soul is treated like a sick man respected 
by his household, who is so carefully tended that the 
air shall not touch him, nor the light shine upon him, 
whom the noise of footsteps and the tumult of servants 
shall not disturb, and to whom the most delicate food is 
given most cautiously by measure, and that nutritious 
rather than savoury. 

12. All these advantages — they all minister to the 
safe-keeping- of the soul — are the effects of this dim 
contemplation, for it brings the soul nearer to God. 
The truth is, that the nearer the soul comes to H'm it 
perceives that darkness is greater and deeper because of 
its own weakness ; thus the nearer the sun the greater 
the darkness and distress v/rought by its great bright- 
ness, because our eyes are weak, imperfect, and 
defective. Hence it is that the spiritual light of God 
is so immeasurable, so far above the understanding, 
that when it comes near to it, it dims and blinds it. 

13. This is the reason why David said that God 
made darkness His hiding-place and covert, His 
tabernacle around Him, dark water in the clouds of 
the air.* The dark water in the clouds of the air is the 
dim contemplation and divine wisdom in souls, as I am 
going to explain, of which they have experience as a 

* Ps. xvii. 12. 


thing near to the pavilion where He dwells, when God 
brings them nearer to Himself. Thus, that which in 
God is light and supreme splendour, is to man thick 
darkness, as S. Paul saith,* and as the royal prophet 
David explains it in the same psalm, saying : ' Because 
of the brightness of His presence the clouds passed,'t 
that is, clouds and darkness over the natural under- 
standing, ' the light of which,' saith the prophet Isaias, 
' is darkened in the mist thereof.'+ 

14. O wretched condition of this life wherein it is so 
difficult to find the truth ! That which is most clear and 
true, is to us most obscure and doubtful, and we there- 
fore avoid it though it is most necessary for us. That 
which shines the most, and dazzles our eyes, that we 
embrace and follow after, though it is most hurtful to us, 
and makes us stumble at every step. In what fear and 
danger then must man be living, seeing that the very 
light of his natural eyes, by which he directs his steps, 
is the very first to bewilder and deceive him when he 
would draw near unto God. If he wishes to be sure of 
the road he travels on, he must close his eyes and walk 
in the dark, if he is to journey in safety from his domestic 
foes, which are his own senses and faculties. 

15. Well hidden and protected then is the soul in the 
dark waters close to God. For as the dark waters are 

* Acts xxii. II. 'I did not see for the brightness of that light.' 
f Ps. xvii. 13. I Is. V. 30. 


a tabernacle and dwelling-place for God Himself, so 
they are also to the soul perfect safety and protection, 
though in darkness, where it is hidden and protected 
from itself, as I have said,* and from all the injuries that 
created things may afflict. It is of souls thus protected 
that David spoke when he said in another psalm : ' Thou 
shalt hide them in the secret of Thy face, from the 
disturbance of men. Thou shalt protect them in Thy 
tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues.'t These 
words comprehend all kinds of protection ; for to be 
hidden ' in the secret of the face ' of God ' from the 
disturbance of men,' is to be strengthened in the dim 
contemplation against all the assaults of men. To be 
protected in His ' tabernacle from the contradiction of 
tongues,' is to be engulfed in the dark waters, which 
is the tabernacle of which David speaks. That soul, 
therefore, whose desires and aifections are weaned, and 
whose faculties are in darkness, is set free from all the 
imperfections which war against the spirit, whether they 
proceed from the flesh, or from any other created thing. 
The soul, therefore, may well say, ' In darkness and in 

1 6. Another reason, not less conclusive, why the 
soul, though in darkness, travels securely, is derived 
from that courage which it acquires as soon as it enters 
within the dark, painful, and gloomy waters of God. 

* § I. t Ps. XXX. 2 1, 22. 


Though it be dark, still it is water, and therefore cannot 
but refresh and strengthen the soul in all that is most 
necessary for it, though it does so painfully and in 
darkness. For the soul immediately discerns in itself a 
certain courage and resolution to do nothing which it 
knows to be displeasing unto God, and to leave nothing 
undone which ministers to His service, because this 
love, which is dim, is most watchful and careful of what 
it is to do, and what it is to leave undone, for His sake, 
so as to please Him. It looks around and considers in 
a thousand ways whether it has done anything to offend 
Him, and all this with much more solicitude and care- 
fulness than it ever did before, as I said when speaking 
of this anxious love.* Here all the desires, all the 
strength, and all the powers of the soul, recollected 
from all besides, direct all their efforts and all their 
energies to the service of God only. Thus the soul goes 
forth out of itself, away from all created things, to the 
sweet and delightsome union of the love of God, ' in 
darkness and in safety.' 

Gives the second line and explains how this dim con- 
templation is secret. 

By the secret ladder, disguised. 

I HAVE three things to explain in reference to the three 
words of this line. Two of them — ' secret ' and ' ladder' 

* Bk. I ch. xi. § 3, and ch. xi. supr. 


— belong to the dark night of contemplation of which I 
am speaking, but the third — ' disguised ' — belongs to 
the way of the soul therein. As to the first, the soul 
calls the dim contemplation, by which it goes forth to 
the union of love, a secret ladder, and that because of 
two properties of it which I am going to explain. First, 
this dark contemplation is called secret, because it is, as 
I have said before,* the mystical theology which theolo- 
gians call secret wisdom, and which according to St. 
Thomas t is infused into the soul more especially by 
love. This happens in a secret hidden way in which the 
natural operations of the understanding and the other 
faculties have no share. And, therefore, because the 
faculties of the soul cannot compass it, it being the Holy 
Ghost Who infuses it into the soul, in a way it knoweth 
not, as the Bride saith in the Canticle,+ we call it secret. 
2. And, in truth, it is not the soul only that knows 
it not, but every one else, even the devil ; because the 
Master who now teaches the soul dwells substantially 
within it. This is not the only reason why it is called 
secret, for it is secret also in its effects. It is not only 
secret beyond the powers of the soul to speak of it, during 

* Ch. V. § I. 

f [S. Thorn. 2<5'^' qu. i8o, art. i. Et propter hoc Gregorius — 
Horn. 14 in Ezech. ante med. constituit vitam contemplativam in 

charitate Dei ideo vita contemplativa terminatur ad 

dilectionem, quae est in affecta, ex quo etiam amor intenditur.] 

t Cant. vi. 11. 


the darkness and sharpness of the purgation, when the 
secret wisdom is purifying the soul, but afterwards also, 
during the illumination, when that wisdom is most 
clearly communicated, it is so secret that it cannot be 
discerned or described. Moreover, the soul has no wish 
to speak of it, and besides, it can discover no way or 
proper similitude to describe it by, so as to make known 
a knowledge so high, a spiritual impression so delicate 
and infused. Yea, and if it could have a wish to speak 
of it, and find terms to describe it, it would always 
remain secret still. 

3. Because this interior wisdom is so simple, general, 
and spiritual, that it enters not into the understanding 
under any form or image subject to sense, as is some- 
times the case, the imagination, therefore, and the 
senses — as it has not entered in by them, nor is modified 
by them — cannot account for it, nor form any conception 
of it, so as to speak in any degree correctly about it, 
though the soul be distinctly conscious that it feels and 
tastes this sweet and strange wisdom. The soul is like 
a man who sees an object for the first time, the like of 
which he has never seen before ; he handles it and feels 
it, yet he cannot say what it is, or tell its name, do what 
he can, though it be at the same time an object cognis- 
able by the senses. How much less then can that be 
described which does not enter in by the senses ? 

4. Such is the nature of the divine language that 


the more interior, infused, and spiritual it is, the more 
it transcends every sense ; the powers of the senses, 
interior and exterior, cease, and their harmonies become 

5. The Holy Writings supply both proofs and illus- 
trations of this principle. Jeremias shows the impossi- 
bility of manifesting and expressing it in words: for when 
God had spoken to him he knew not what to say, except, 
' Ah, ah, ah. Lord God.'* Moses, also, is an instance of 
the interior helplessness, that is, of the interior imagina- 
tive sense, and of the exterior also at the same lime : for 
when God spoke to him out of the bush, he not only 
saw that he could not speak, but as is said in the Acts 
of the ApostleSjt he ' durst not behold ; '+ that is, the 
imagination itself was weak and silent. The wisdom 
of this contemplation is the language of God addressed 
to the soul, as pure spirit, and as the senses are not 
spiritual, so they do not perceive it ; it remains there- 
fore a secret from them, they cannot understand it, nor 
express it. 

6. This explains why some persons, walking in this 

way, good and timid souls, who, when they would give 

an account of their interior state to their directors, know 

not how to do it, neither have they the power to do it, 

and so feel a great repugnance to explain themselves, 

especially when contemplation is the more simple and 

* Jerem. i. 6. f Exod. iv. 10. I Acts vii. 32. 



with difficulty discernible by them. All they can say 
is that their soul is satisfied, calm, or contented, that 
they have a sense of the presence of God, and that all 
goes well with them, as they think; but they cannot 
explain their state, except by general expressions of 
this kind. But it is a different matter when they have 
a consciousness of particular things, such as visions, 
impressions, and the like; these in general are com- 
municated under some species, in which the senses 
participate ; in that case they are able to describe them. 
But it is not in the nature of pure contemplation that it 
can be described ; for it can scarcely be spoken of in 
words, and therefore we call it secret. 

7. This is not the only reason why it is called secret, 
and why it is so. There is another, namely the mystical 
wisdom has the property of hiding the soul within itself. 
For beside its ordinary operation, it sometimes so 
absorbs the soul and plunges it in this secret abyss that 
the soul sees itself distinctly as far away from, and 
abandoned by, all created things ; it looks upon itself 
as one that is placed in a wild and vast solitude whither 
no human being can come, as in an immense wilderness 
without limits ; a wilderness, the more delicious, sweet, 
and lovely, the more it is wide, vast, and lonely, where 
the soul is the more hidden, the more it is raised up 
above all created things. 

8. This abyss of wisdom now so exalts and elevates 


the soul — orderly disposing it for the science of love — 
that it makes it not only understand how mean are all 
(created things in relation to the supreme wisdom and 
divine knowledge, but also, how low, defective, and, 
in a certain sense, improper, are all the words and 
phrases by which in this life we discuss divine things, 
and how utterly impossible by any natural means, how- 
ever profoundly and learnedly we may speak, to 
understand and see them as they are, except in the 
light of mystical theology. And so the soul in the light 
thereof discerning this truth, namely, that it cannot 
reach it, and still less explain it by the terms of 
ordinary speech, justly calls it secret. 

9. This property of being secret, and of surpassing all 
natural capacity, belongs to divine contemplation, not 
only because it is itself supernatural, but also because it is 
the guide of the soul to the perfections of union with God, 
which not being humanly known, we must reach by not 
knowing the way, and being divinely ignorant. For, to 
use the language of mystical theology, as we are doing, 
these things are neither understood nor known when 
they are sought, but when they are found and practised. 
For thus the prophet Baruch speaks of the divine 
wisdom : ' There is none that can know her ways, nor 
that can search out her paths.'* The royal prophet 
also, speaking of this way of the soul, says unto God : 
* Baruch iii. ^i. 


' Thy lightnings enlightened the round world, the earth 
was moved and trembled, Thy way is in the sea, and 
Thy paths in many waters, and Thy steps shall not be 
known/* All this in a spiritual sense explains the 
matter I am discussing. 

lo. The lightnings that enlightened the round world 
is the illumination of the faculties of the soul in the 
divine contemplation, the moving and trembling of the 
earth is the painful purgation of which it is the cause. 
To say that the way of God, by which the soul draws 
near unto Him, is in the sea, and His paths in many 
waters, and therefore not known, is to say that this way 
to God is as secret, and as hidden from the senses of the 
soul, as the way of one who walks on the waters is from 
the senses of the body, and whose paths and steps are 
not known. The paths and steps of God in those souls 
which He is drawing to Himself, making them great in 
the union of His wisdom, have this property, that they 
are not known. That is the meaning of these words in 
the book of Job, impressing upon us this truth, 
* Knowest thou the great paths of the clouds, and perfect 
knowledges ? ' t that is, the paths and ways of God, in 
which He makes souls great and perfect in His wisdom ; 
these are the clouds. This contemplation, therefore, 
which guides the soul to God is secret wisdom. 

* Ps. Ixxvi. 19, 20. t Jobxxxvii. 16. 



Shows how this secret wisdom is also a ladder. 

It remains for me to explain the second property, 
namely, how this secret wisdom is also a ladder. There 
are many reasons for calling secret contemplation a 
ladder. In the first place, as men employ ladders to 
mount up to those strong places where treasures are 
laid up, so also by secret contemplation, without knowing 
how. the soul ascends, and mounts upwards, to the 
knowledge and possession of the goods and treasures of 
heaven. This is well expressed by the royal prophet 
David when he says, * Blessed is the man whose help is 
from Thee : he hath disposed ascensions in his heart, in 
the vale of tears, in the place which he hath appointed. 
For the Lawgiver shall give blessing ; they shall go 
from virtue into virtue : the God of gods shall be seen in 
Sion.'* He is the treasure of the citadel of Sion which 
is blessedness. 

2. We may also call it a ladder, for as the steps of 
one and the same ladder serve to descend as well as to 
ascend by, so, too, those very communications which the 
soul receives in secret contemplation raise it up to God 
and make it humble. For the communications which 
really come from God have this property : they humble 
and exalt the soul at one and the same time. In the 

* Ps. Ixxxiii. 6, 7, S. 


spiritual way, to descend is to ascend, and to ascend is 
to descend, ' because everyone that exalteth himself 
shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall 
be exalted.'* Moreover, as the virtue of humility is an 
exaltation, for the trial of the soul therein, God is wont 
to make it ascend by this ladder that it may descend, 
and make it descend that it may ascend ; for thus are 
fulfilled the words of the Wise Man, * Before he be 
broken the heart of a man is exalted, and before he be 
glorified it is humbled. 'f 

3. If the soul will reflect on the nature of a ladder 
— I omit the spiritual which is not perceptible — it will 
easily see how uneven is the road ; how after prosperity, 
which makes it glad, storms and trials follow at once, so 
that its previous repose seems to have been given it to 
prepare it and strengthen it for its present sufferings ; 
how also, after misery and distress, come abundance 
and ease, so that the soul shall seem to have kept a 
vigil before the feast. This is the ordinary course of 
the state of contemplation, for until the soul attains to 
repose it never continues in one state ; for all is 
ascending and descending. The reason is this ; the 
state of perfection, which consists in the perfect love 
of God and contempt of self, can only subsist on two 
conditions, the knowledge of God and of oneself. The 
soul, therefore, must of necessity be tried in the one and 

* St. Luke xiv. 11. f Prov. xviii. 12. 


the Other, in the first which exalts it, by giving it to 
taste the sweetness of God, in the second which, by 
trials, humbles it, until, perfect habits having been 
acquired, it ceases to ascend and descend, having 
arrived at the summit, united with God, Who is at 
the top of it, and on Whom, too, the ladder rests. 
■ 4. The ladder of contemplation, which, as I have 
said, comes down from God, is shadowed forth by that 
ladder which Jacob saw in a dream, and the angels 
ascending and descending by it, from God to man and 
from man to God, Who was Himself leaning upon it.* 
This took place by night, when Jacob slept, as the 
Scriptures declare, that we may learn from it how secret 
is the way and ascent unto God, and how different from 
all human conception. This is plain enough, for, in 
general, that which is to our greater profit — the loss and 
annihilation of self — we esteem a calamity ; and that 
which is of but little value — comfort and sweetness, 
where, in general, we lose instead of gaining — we look 
upon as the more advantageous for us. 

5. But, to speak with more accuracy, and to the 
purpose, of the ladder of secret contemplation, I must 
observe that the chief reason why it is called a ladder 
is, that contemplation is the science of love, which is an 
infused loving knowledge of God, and which enlightens 
the soul and at the same time kindles within it the fire 

* Gen. xxviii. 12, 13. 


of love till it shall ascend upwards step by step unto 
God its Creator ; for it is love only that unites the soul 
and God. With a view to the greater clearness of this 
matter, I shall mark the steps of this divine ladder, 
explaining concisely the signs and effects of each, that 
the soul may be able to form some conjecture on which 
of them it stands, I shall distinguish between them 
by their effects with St. Bernard and St. Thomas,* and 
because it is not naturally possible to know them as 
they are in themselves, because the ladder of love is so 
secret that it can be weighed and measured by God only. 


Begins the explanation of the ten degrees of the mystic 
ladder according to St. Bernard and St. Thomas. 

The steps of the ladder of love, by which the soul, 
ascending from one to another, rises upwards to God, 
We say are ten. The first degree of love makes the soul 
languish to its great profit. On this the bride is 
speaking when she says, ' I adjure you, O daughters of 
Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him that 
I languish with love.'t This languishing is not unto 

* [S. Thom. de dilectione Dei et Proximi, cap. xxvii. Ut dicit 
Bernardus, magna res est amor, sad sunt in eo gradus, Loquendo ergo 
aliquantulum magio moraliter quam realiter decern amoris gradus dis- 
tinguere possumus, per quos contingit a statu via; ad statum patriae 
scandere ordinate, quos gradus cognosces per actus.] 

t Cant. V. 8. 


death, but to the glory of God ; for the soul faints away 
as to sin and all things whatsoever that are not God, for 
God's sake, as the Psalmist testifies, saying : ' My spirit 
hath fainted away '* from all things after Thy salvation ; 
as he says in another place : ' My soul hath fainted after 
Thy salvation. 't 

, " 2. As a sick man loses the desire for, and the taste of 
all food, and the colour vanishes from his face, so the 
soul in this degree of love loses all pleasure in earthly 
things, and all desire of them, and, like one in love, 
changes its colour. The soul does not fall into this 
languishing state if the vehement heat descends not into 
it from above, which is the mystic fever, according to the 
words of the Psalmist, ' Voluntary rain shalt Thou 
separate. O God, to thine inheritance, and it was 
weakened, but Thou hast perfected it.'+ This languishing 
and fainting away as to all things — it is the first and 
earliest step to God — I have already explained, !5 when 
I spoke of that annihilation to which the soul is brought 
when it begins to stand upon the ladder of contemplative 
purgation, when it finds no comfort, pleasure, nor 
support anywhere. In consequence of which it begins 
immediately to climb the other steps of the ladder. 

3. On the second step the soul is unremitting in its 
search after God. Thus the bride speaks of her seeking 
Him in her bed by night — she had fainted away when on 

* Ps. cxlii. 7. t Ps. cxviii. Si. J Ps. Ixvii. 10. § Bk. i ch. xi. 


the first step of the ladder — and had not found Him, 
says : ' I will rise ; I will seek Him whom my soul 
loveth.'* This is now the unceasing" occupation of the 
soul, ' Seek ye the Lord, seek His face evermore,' t is the 
counsel of the Psalmist, and never rest until He be 
found ; like the bride who, when she had questioned the 
watchmen, passed on in her search, + and left them. 
Mary Magdalene did not remain even with the angels at 
the sepulchre. § So anxious is the soul now that it seeks 
the Beloved in all things ; all its thoughts, words, and 
works are referred to Him ; in eating, sleeping, and 
waking, all its anxieties are about Him, as I have 
already described it when speaking of the anxieties of As love becomes strong, regaining health, it 
commences the ascent to the third step by a new purga- 
tion in the night— as I shall hereafter explain^l^ — and 
which issues in the effects that follow. 

4. The third step of the ladder of love renders the 
soul active and fervent, so that it faints not. Of this 
step the royal prophet said, * Blessed is the man that 
feareth our Lord, he shall delight exceedingly in His 
commandments.'** If then, fear, being the fruit of love, 
produces this delight, what will be the effect of love 
itself ? On this step the soul looks on great things as 
little, on many as few, its long service as short, by 

* Cant. iii. 1,2. f Ps. civ. 4. j Cant. iii. 4. § St. John xx. 14. 
!| Bk. 2 ch. xi. § 7. ^ Spirit. Cant, stanza xiii. ** Ps. cxi. i. 


reason of the fire of love which is burning. It is with 
the soul as it was with Jacob, who * served seven years 
for Rachel, and they seemed but a few days, because of 
the greatness of his love.'* If the love of a created 
being did so much in Jacob, what will the love of the 
Creator Himself do, when it shall have taken possession 
Of the soul on the third step of the ladder r 

5. Here the soul, because of the great love it has 
for God, is in great pain and suffering because of the 
scantiness of its service ; if it could lawfully die for 
Him a thousand times it would be comforted. It looks 
upon itself therefore as unprofitable in all it does, and 
■on its life as worthless. Another most wonderful effect 
is that it looks upon itself as being in truth the very 
worst of all, because its love continues to show it what 
is due to God ; and then, because as it labours much in 
the service of God and sees how faulty and imperfect 
are its works, it is ashamed and distressed, seeing that 
the service it renders to God Who is so high, is so 
exceedingly mean. On this third step the soul is very 
far from giving way to vainglory or presumption, or 
from condemning others. These anxious effects and 
other of the same kind are wrought in the soul when on 
the third step of the ladder, and so the soul acquires 
strength and courage to ascend to the fourth. 

6. When the soul is on the fourth step of the ladder 

* Gen. xxix. 20. 


of love, it falls into a state of suffering, but without 
weariness, on account of the Beloved ; for, as St. 
Augustine saith, love makes all that is grievous and 
heavy to be light as nothing.* It was on this step that 
the bride stood when longing for the last, she said : 
' Put me as a seal upon Thy heart, as a seal upon Thy 
arm ; for love ' — that is, the acts and operations of love 
— ' is strong as death ; jealousy is hard as hell.t 

7. The spirit is now so strong, and has so subdued 
the flesh, and makes so little of it, that it is as regard- 
less of it as a tree is of one of its leaves. It seeks not 
for consolation or sweetness either in God or elsewhere, 
neither does it pray for God's gifts through any motive 
of self-interest, or its own satisfaction. For all it cares 
for now is how it shall please God, and serve Him 
in some measure in return for His goodness, and for 
the graces it has received, and this at any and every 

8. It is now saying with heart and mind, my God 
and my Lord, how many there are who seek their own 
comfort and joy in Thee and who pray for gifts and 
graces, but those who strive to please Thee, who offer 
Thee that which costs them something, and who cast 
their own interests aside, are very few ; it is not Thy 
will to show mercy that fails, O my God ! but it is we 

* Serm. LXX. de Verb. Evan. Matth. Opp. torn. v. p. 3S3. Lib. 
de Vidiiitate, Cap. 21, Tom. vi. p. 384. Ed. Ben. 
f Cant. viii. 6. 


who fail in using Thy mercies in Thy service, so as to 
bind Thee to show us Thy mercy continually. 

9. This degree of love is exceedingly high, for now 
as the soul, earnest in its love, always follows after God 
in the spirit of suffering for His sake, God frequently 
and, as it were, continually gives it joy, visiting it 
sweetly in spirit, for the boundless love of Christ, the 
Word, cannot look on the sufferings of the souls that 
love without coming to their relief. He has promised 
this by the mouth of the prophet Jeremias, saying, ' I 
have remembered thee, pitying thy youth . . . when 
thou followedst me in the desert,'* which in its spiritual 
sense is that detachment of the soul from all created 
things, not resting upon them nor at ease among them. 
On this fourth step of the ladder the soul is so inflamed 
with love, and so set on fire with the desire after God, 
that it ascends upwards to the fifth, which is the next. 

10. On the fifth step of the ladder the soul longs 
after God, and desires Him with impatience. So great 
is the eagerness of the soul on this step to embrace, and 
be united to, the Beloved, that all delay, how slight 
soever, seems to it long, tedious, and oppressive, and it 
is ever thinking that it has found its love ; but when it 
sees that its desires are disappointed — which is almost 
continually the case — it faints away through its longing, 
as the Psalmist says, speaking of this step : ' My soul 

* Jerem. ii. 2. 


longeth and fainteth for the courts of our Lord.'* On 
this step the soul must either obtain its desires or die, 
as Rachel, because of her great longing for children 
said to Jacob, her husband, ' Give me children, other- 
wise I shall die.'t The soul is now nourished by love, 
for as was its hunger so is its abundance, and so it 
ascends to the sixth step, the effects of which are as 


Of the other five degrees. 

When the soul has ascended to the sixth step, it runs 
swiftly to God ; and hope too runs without fainting, for 
love that has made it strong makes it fly rapidly. Of 
this step also Isaias speaks, saying : ' They that hope in 
our Lord shall change their strength, they shall take 
wings as eagles, they shall run and not labour, they 
shall walk and not faint,'+ to this step also the Psalmist 
refers : 'As the hart panteth after the fountains of 
waters, so my soul panteth after Thee, O God.'§ The 
hart when thirsty runs very swiftly to the water. The 
cause of this swiftness which the soul experiences on 
this step is, that charity is enlarged, and the soul is now 
almost wholly purified, as it is written in the psalm : 

* Ps. Ixxxiii. 2. t Gen. xxx. i. t Is. xl. 31. § Ps. xli. i. 


* without iniquity have I run,'* and in another psalm, ' I 
ran the way of Thy commandments, when Thou didst 
dilate my heart,'! and thus the soul ascends immediately 
from the sixth to the seventh degree which follows. 

2. On the seventh step the soul becomes vehemently 
bold, in this intense and loving exaltation, no prudence 
can withhold it, no counsel control it, no shame restrain 
it ; for the favour which God hath shown it has made it 
vehemently bold. This explains to us those words of 
the Apostle, that charity * believeth all things, hopeth 
all things, endureth all things. '+ It was on this step that 
Moses spoke, when he said unto God : ' Either forgive 
them this trespass, or if Thou do not, strike me out of 
the book that Thou hast written. '§ Men of this spirit 
obtain from God what they so lovingly pray for. Hence 
the words of David : 'Delight in the Lord, and He will 
give thee the requests of thy heart.' || 

3. Standing on this step, the bride was bold, and 
said ' Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth.'^ 
But consider well here, it is not lawful to be thus bold, 
unless the soul feels that the interior favour of the king's 
sceptre is extended to it,** lest it should fall down the 
steps already ascended ; in all of which humility must 
ever be preserved. From this boldness and courage 
which God grants to the soul on the seventh step, that 

* lb. Iviii. 5. f Ps. cxviii. 32. I i Cor. xiii. 7. § Ex. xxxii. 31, $2. 

II Ps. xxxvi. 4. \\ Cant. i. i. ** Esth. v. 2 ; viii. 4. 


it may be bold with Him in the vehemence of its love, 
the soul ascends to the eighth, where it lays hold of the 
Beloved and is united to Him. 

4. On the eighth step the soul embraces the Beloved 
and holds Him fast, according to the words of the bride : 
' I found Him whom my soul loveth ; I held Him ; and I 
will not let Him go.'* On this step of union the desires 
of the soul are satisfied, but not without interruption. 
Some souls ascend to this step and at once fall back, if 
they did not, and remained there, they would have 
attained to a certain state of blessedness in this life, and 
thus the soul tarries but briefly on this step of the ladder. 
Daniel, being a man of desires, was bidden, on the part 
of God, to remain here : ' Daniel thou man of desires, 
stand upright.'t After this comes the ninth step, which 
is that of the perfect. 

5. On the ninth step the soul is on fire sweetly. This 
step is that of the perfect who burn away sweetly in God, 
for this sweet and delicious burning is the work of the 
Holy Ghost because of the union of the soul with God. 
St. Gregory says of the Apostles, that they burned 
interiorly with love sweetly, when the Holy Ghost 
descended upon them.+ The blessings and the riches of 
God which the soul now enjoys cannot be described. 
And if we were to write many books on the subject there 
would still be more to say. For this reason, and because 

* Cant. iii. 4. | Dan. x. 11. * Horn. 30, in Evang. 


I intend to speak of it hereafter,* I shall now say no 
more of this step, except that it is immediately followed 
by the tenth and the last, which does not belong to 
this life. 

6. On the tenth step of the ladder the soul becomes 
wholly assimilated unto God in the beatific vision which 
it then enjoys ; for having ascended in this life to the 
ninth, it goeth forth out of the body. Love works in 
such souls — they are few, and perfectly purified in this 
life — that which purgatory works in others in the next. 
For according to St. Matthew ' Blessed are the clean in 
heart, for they shall see God.'t As I have said, the 
vision is the cause of the soul's perfect likeness unto 
God. * We know,' saith St. John, ' that, when He shall 
appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see 
Him as He is. 'J And thus, whatever the soul is, it will 
be like unto God, and so is called, and is, by participa- 
tion, God. 

7. This is the secret ladder of which the soul speaks, 
though in the higher steps no longer secret, for love 
reveals itself exceedingly in the great effects it produces. 
But on the highest step, the beatific vision, the last of 
the ladder, where God is leaning-, as I said before, § 
nothing remains secret from the soul, by reason of its 
perfect likeness. And, therefore, our Saviour saith, ' In 

* Spirit. Cant. Stanza xiv. f St. Matt. v. 8. I i St. John iii. 2i 

§ Ch. xviii. § 4. 



that day you shall not ask me anything.'* Until that 
day come, notwithstanding the heights to which the soul 
ascends, something still remains secret from it, and that 
in proportion to the distance from its perfect likeness to 
the Divine Essence. In this way, then, by means of 
mystical theology and secret love, the soul goeth forth 
from all things and from itself, ascending upwards unto 
God. For love is like fire, which ever ascends, hastening 
to be absorbed in the centre of its sphere. 


The meaning of * disguised.' The colours in which the 
soul disguises itself in this night. 

Having now explained why contemplation is called a 
secret ladder, I have further to explain what is meant 
by the word * disguised ' ; for the soul says that it went 
forth by the secret ladder * disguised.' 

2. For the understanding of the whole matter it is 
necessary to keep in mind that to be disguised is 
nothing else but to hide oneself under another form 
than our own, either for the purpose of showing, under 
that concealment the will and purpose of the heart with 
a view to gain the goodwill and affection of the person 
beloved, or for the purpose of escaping the observation 
of rivals, and thereby the better effect our object. Such 

* S. John xvi. 23. 


a person assumes the disguise which shall most represent 
and manifest the affection of his heart, and which shall 
the best conceal him from his rivals. 

3. The soul, then, touched with the love of its 
Bridegroom Christ, that it may gain His favour and 
goodwill, sallies forth in that disguise which shall most 
vividly represent the affections of the mind and secure 
it against the assaults of its enemies, the devil, the 
world, and the flesh. The disguise it assumes is, there- 
fore, a garment of three principal colours, white, green, 
and purple, emblems of the three theological virtues, 
faith, hope, and charity ; by the help of which it shall 
not only enter into the good graces of the Beloved, but 
shall also be most secure and protected against its three 

4. The faith is a garment of such surpassing white- 
ness as to dazzle the eyes of every understanding : for 
when the soul has put on faith it becomes invisible and 
inaccessible to the devil, because it is then most securely 
defended against him, its strongest and most cunning 

5. St. Peter knew of no better defence against the 
devil than faith, for he said, * whom resist, stedfast in 
faith,'* And with a view of entering into favour and 
union with the Beloved, the soul cannot put on a better 
garment, as the ground of the other virtues, than the 

* I S. Pet. V. 9. 


white garment of faith, for without it, the Apostle saith, 
' it is impossible to please God.'* But with a living 
faith the soul is pleasing and acceptable unto God, for 
He says so Himself by the mouth of the prophet: *I will 
espouse thee to Me in faith.'t It is as if He said to the 
soul, If thou wilt be united and betrothed to Me, thou 
must draw near inwardly clad in faith. 

6. The soul put on the white robe of faith on its 
going forth in this dark night, when walking in the 
darkness amidst interior trials, as I said before,+ it 
received no ray of light from the understanding; not 
from above, because heaven seemed shut and God 
hidden ; not from below, because its spiritual directors 
gave it no comfort. It bore its trials patiently and 
persevered , without fainting, or falling away from the 
Beloved, Who by these crosses and tribulations tried the 
faith of His bride, that it might be able hereafter truly 
to say with the Psalmist, * For the words of Thy lips, I 
have kept hard ways.'§ 

7. Over the white robe of faith the soul puts on forth- 
with that of the second colour, green, emblem of the 
virtue of hope, by which it is delivered and protected 
from its second enemy, the world. The freshness of a 
living hope in God fills the soul with such energy and 
resolution, with such aspirations after the things of 
eternal life, that all this world seems to it — as indeed 

* Heb. xi. 6. f Os- "• 20. t Ch. vii. § 4. § Ps. xvi. 4. 


it is — in comparison with that which it hopes for, dry, 
withered, dead, and worthless. The soul now denudes 
itself of the garments and trappings of the world, by- 
setting the heart upon nothing that is in it, and hoping 
for nothing that is, or may be, in it, living only in the 
hope of everlasting life. And, therefore, when the heart 
is'thus lifted up above the world, the world cannot touch 
it or lay hold of it, nor even see it. 

8. The soul then, thus disguised and clad in the 
vesture of hope, is secure from its second foe, the world, 
for St. Paul calls hope the helmet of salvation.* Now a 
helmet is armour which protects and covers the whole 
head, and has no opening except in one place, where the 
eyes may look through. Hope is such a helmet, for it 
covers all the senses of the head of the soul in such 
a way that they cannot be lost in worldly things, and 
leaves no part of them exposed to the arrows of the 
world. It has one loophole only through which the eyes 
may look upwards only ; this is the ordinary work of 
hope, to direct the eyes of the soul to God alone ; as 
David saith, ' My eyes are always to our Lord,'t looking 
for succour nowhere else ; as he saith in another Psalm, 
*As the eyes of the handmaid on the hands of her 
mistress, so are our eyes to our Lord God until He have 
mercy on us,'J hoping in Him. 

Q. The green vesture of hope — for the soul is then 

* I Thess. V. 8. f Ps. xxiv. 15, J Ps. cxxii. 2. 


ever looking- upwards unto God, disregarding all else, and 
delighting only in Him — is so pleasing to the Beloved 
that the soul obtains from Him all it hopes for. This is 
why He tells the soul in the Canticle, * Thou hast 
wounded My heart in one of thine eyes.'* It would have 
been useless for the soul, if it had not put on the green 
robe of hope in God, to claim such love, for it would not 
have succeeded, because that which influences the 
Beloved, and prevails, is persevering hope. It is in the 
vesture of hope that the soul goes forth disguised 
in this secret and dark night ; seeing that it goes 
forth so detached from all possession, without any 
consolations, that it regards nothing", and that its sole 
anxiety is about God, putting its * mouth in the dust 
if so be there may be hope,' in the words of Jeremias 
quoted already. t 

lo. Over the white and green robes, as the crown 
and perfection of its disguise, the soul puts on the third, 
the splendid robe of purple. This is the emblem of 
charity, which not only enhances the beauty of the 
others, but which so elevates the soul and renders it so 
lovely and pleasing in His eyes that it ventures to say 
to Him, * I am black but beautiful, O daughters of 
Jerusalem, therefore hath the king loved me and 
brought me into His secret chamber.'+ This robe of 

* Cant. iv. 9. f Ch. viii. § i. 

i Cant. i. 4. Off, B. M. V. ant. ad Vesp. 


charity, which is that of love, not only defends and 
protects the soul from its third enemy, the flesh — for 
where the true love of God is there is no room for self- 
love or for selfishness — but strengthens the other virtues 
also, and makes them flourish for the protection of the 
soul, beautifying it and adorning it with grace, so that 
it shall please the Beloved ; for without charity no 
virtue is pleasing unto God. This is the purple, spoken 
of in the Canticle, by which the soul ascends to the seat 
where God reposes : ' the seat of gold, the going up of 
purple/* It is vested in this robe of purple that the 
soul journeys, as the first stanza declares, when in the 
dark night it went out of itself, and from all created 
things, with anxious love inflamed, by the secret ladder 
of contemplation to the perfect union of the love of God 
its beloved Saviour. 

II. This, then, is that disguise which the soul says 
it puts on in the night of faith on the secret ladder ; 
and these are the three colours of it, namely, a certain 
most fitting disposition for its union with God in its 
three powers, memory, understanding and will. Faith 
blinds the understanding, and empties it of all natural 
intelligence, and thereby disposes it for union with the 
divine wisdom. Hope empties the memory and with- 
draws it from all created things which can possess it ; 
for as St. Paul saith, * Hope that is seen is not hope.'t 
* Cant. iii. lo. | Rom. viii. 24. 


Thus the memory is withdrawn from all things on which 
it might dwell in this life, and is fixed on what the soul 
hopes to possess. Hope in God alone, therefore, purely 
disposes the memory according to the measure of the 
emptiness it has wrought for union with Him. 

12. Charity in the same way empties the affections 
and desires of the will of everything that is not God, 
and fixes them on Him alone. This virtue of charity, 
then, disposes the will and unites it with God in love. 
And because these virtues — it being their special work 
— withdraw the soul from all that is not God, so also do 
they serve to unite the soul to Him. It is impossible 
for the soul to attain to the perfection of the love of 
God unless it journeys, in earnest, in the robes of these 
three virtues. This disguise, therefore, which the soul 
assumed when it went forth in order to obtain that 
which it aimed at, the loving and delightful union with 
the Beloved, was most necessary and expedient. And 
it was also a great happiness to have succeeded in thus 
disguising itself and persevering in it until it obtained 
the desired end, the union of love, as it declares in the 
next line. 



Explains the third line of the second stanza. 
O happy lot ! 
It is very evident that it was a blessed thing for the soul 
to have succeeded in such an enterprise as this, by which 
it was delivered out of the hands of satan, from the 
world, and from its own sensuality, in which, having 
gained that liberty of spirit so precious and desirable, it 
rose from meanness to dignity, from being earthly and 
human became heavenly and divine, having its * conver- 
sation in Heaven,'* like unto those who are in a state of 
perfection, as I shall proceed to explain. 

2. I shall, however, be brief, because the most 
important point — that which chiefly determined me to 
explain this dark night to many souls who enter on it 
without knowing it, as I said in the preface — has been 
already in some degree explained, and I have also 
shown, though not in adequate terms, how great are the 
blessings that descend upon the soul in this night, and 
what a great happiness it is to be passing through it. 
This I did that when such souls are alarmed at the trials 
that have come upon them, they may be encouraged by 
the certain hope of the numerous and great blessings of 
God which they receive in this night. Besides this, it 
was a happy lot for the soul for the reason assigned in 
the following line. 

* Philipp. iii. 20. 



Explains the fourth line — describes the wonderful hiding 
place of the soul in this night, and how the devil, though he 
enters other most secret places, enters not this. 

In darkness and concealment. 

* In concealment,' that is, secretly or hidden. So when 
the soul says that it went forth in darkness and conceal- 
ment, it explains more clearly the great safety spoken of 
in the first line of this stanza — which it finds in this dim 
contemplation on the road of the union of the love 
of God. 

2. The words of the soul ' darkness and concealment ' 
mean here that the soul, because it went forth in the 
dark, travelled in secret, undiscovered by the evil one, 
beyond the reach of his wiles and stratagems. The 
reason why the soul is free, concealed from the devil and 
his wiles in the dimness of this contemplation, is, that 
infused contemplation, to which it is now admitted, is 
passively infused into it, in secret, without the cognisance 
of the senses, and of the interior and exterior powers of 
the sensual part. And that, too, is the reason why it 
escapes, not only from the embarrassments which the 
faculties, and naturally, through their weakness, present 
before it, but also from the evil one who, were it not for 
the sensual faculties, could never know what is passing 


in the soul. The more spiritual therefore the communi- 
cation is, and the further it is removed beyond the reach 
of sense, the less able is the devil to perceive it. 

.3. This being so, it greatly concerns the soul's security, 
that the lower senses should be in the dark, and have no 
knowledge of the interior conversation of the soul with 
God, and that for two reasons ; first, that the spiritual 
communication may be the more abundant, for then the 
weakness of the sensual part hinders not liberty of 
spirit. The second is, that the soul is more secure 
because the evil one cannot know what is passing 
within it. The words of our Lord, ' Let not thy left 
hand know what thy right hand doth,'* may be, in a 
spiritual sense, understood of this, and we may under- 
stand Him to say : Let not thy left hand, that is man's 
lower nature, know what is passing in the higher and 
spiritual part of the soul. That is, let the divine com- 
munications remain unknown to the lower senses, and a 
secret between the spirit and God. 

4. It is very true, that oftentimes when these interior 
and most secret spiritual communications are made to 
the soul, the devil, though he knows neither their nature 
nor their form, ascertains their presence, and that the 
soul is then receiving some great blessings, merely from 
observing the silence and repose some of them effect in 
the senses, and in the powers of our lower nature. And 

* St. Matt. vi. 3. 


then, when he sees that he cannot thwart them in the 
inmost depth of the soul, he does all he can to disquiet 
and disturb the sensual part which is accessible to him, 
now by pain and at another time by horrible dread, 
intending thereby to trouble the higher and spiritual 
part of the soul, and to frustrate the blesjings it then 
receives and, enjoys. 

5. But very often when this contemplation pours its 
light purely into the spirit and exerts its strength 
therein, the devil, with all his efforts, is not able to 
disturb it, for then the soul becomes the recipient of 
renewed benefits, love, and a more secure peace ; for, 
wonderful to tell ! in its consciousness of the disturbing 
presence of the foe, it enters deeply into itself, without 
knowing how it comes to pass, and feels assured of a 
certain refuge where it can hide itself beyond the reach 
of the evil one ; and thus its peace and joy are increased, 
of which the devil attempted to rob it. All those terrors 
assail it only from without ; it sees clearly, and exults, 
that it can in the meanwhile securely enjoy in secret the 
calm peace and sweetness of the Bridegroom, which the 
world and the devil can neither give nor take away. 
The soul is now experiencing the truth of that which 
the bride says in the Canticle, ' Behold, threescore 
valiants . . . compass the bed of Solomon . . . 
for fears by night.'* Strength and peace abound 

* Cant. iii. 7, 8. 


within the soul, though it feels the flesh and the bones 
frequently tormented without. 

6. At other times, when the spiritual communica- 
tions flow over into the senses, the devil succeeds the 
more easily in disquieting the mind, and in disturbing 
it with the terrors with which he assails it through the 
senses. At that time the mental agonies are great, and 
occasionally surpassing all description ; for when spirit 
has to do with spirit, the evil one causes an intolerable 
horror in the good one, that is, in the soul, when it 
succeeds in disturbing it. This is the meaning of the 
bride in her account of that which happened to her when 
she tried to be interiorly recollected, so as to have 
the fruition of these goods : ' I came down,' she says, 
* into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valleys, 
and to look if the vineyard had flourished ... I knew 
not ; my soul troubled me for the chariots and the noise 
of Aminadab,' that is the devil.* 

7. This attack of the devil takes place also when God 
bestows His favours upon a soul by the instrumentality 
of a good angel. The devil sees this occasionally, 
because God in general permits it to become known to 
the enemy, that he may do what he can, according to 
the measure of justice, against that soul, and that he 
may be debarred from pleading that he had no opportu- 
nity of seizing on that soul as he did in the case of Job. 

* Cant, vi, 10, 11. 


It is, therefore, expedient that God should place these 
two combatants, the good ang-el and the devil, on an 
equality when they contend for the soul, in order that 
the victory may be of greater worth, and that the soul, 
triumphant and faithful in temptation, may be the more 
abundantly rewarded. 

8. This is the reason — and it is right we should 
observe it — why God, in the order of grace, permits 
satan to disquiet and tempt the soul which He is guiding 
therein. When such a soul has real visions, through 
the instrumentality of an angel, God suffers the evil 
spirit to represent false visions of the same kind, in such 
a way that an incautious soul may be very easily 
deluded, as it has happened to many. We have an 
instance of this in Exodus, where we read that the 
magicians of Pharao wrought apparently signs and 
wonders resembling those really wrought by Moses. 
For when Moses turned water into blood, the magicians 
of Egypt did the same ; and when he brought forth 
frogs, so did the magicians.* 

9. It is not in bodily visions only that the evil spirit 
apes God, but in spiritual communications also, which 
are effected through the instrumentality of an angel, 
whenever he succeeds in discovering them. For as Job 
saith, 'He seeth every high thing,'t that is, he apes 
them, and insinuates himself among them as well as he 

* Ex. vii. II, 22 ; viii. 6, 7. j Jot> xli. 25. 


can. Spiritual visions have neither form nor figure — 
that is the characteristic of spirit — and, therefore, satan 
cannot imitate them, nor occasion others which shall in 
any way represent them. And so when the good angel 
communicates spiritual contemplation, the evil spirit, in 
order to attack it while the soul is being thus visited, 
presents itself before it with a certain horror and 
spiritual confusion, which is occasionally exceedingly 
painful. Sometimes the soul can quickly disembarrass 
itself, so that the terror of the evil spirit shall have no 
time to make any impression upon it, and recollects 
itself, favoured herein by that spiritual grace which the 
good angel then communicates. 

lo. Sometimes, too, God permits this horror and 
trouble to last a long time, and this is a greater torment 
to the soul than all the evils of this life can be ; the 
remembrance of which afterwards is sufficient to produce 
great pain. All this passes in the soul without its doing 
or undoing anything of itself to bring about these repre- 
sentations or impressions. But we must remember that, 
when God suffers the evil spirit thus to afflict the soul, 
it is with a view to purify and prepare it by that 
spiritual vigil for some great festival and spiritual grace 
which it is His will to bestow upon it, for He never 
mortifies but to give life, and never humbles but to 
exalt. This speedily ensues ; for the soul, according to 
the measure of the dark purgation it has undergone, 


enters on the fruition of sweet spiritual contemplation, 
and that so sublime at times that no language can 
describe it. This is to be understood of those visitations 
which God makes by the ministry of an angel, and 
wherein the soul, as I said before,* is not wholly 
secure, nor in such darkness and concealment as to 
be altogether unobserved by the enemy. 

11. But when God visits the soul Himself, the words 
of the stanza are then true, for, in perfect darkness, 
hidden from the enemy, it receives, at such times, the 
spiritual graces of God. The reason of the difference is 
that God, being the sovereign Lord, dwells substantially 
in the soul, and that neither angel nor devil can discover 
what is going on there, nor penetrate the profound and 
secret communications which take place between Him 
and the soul. These communications, because the work 
of our Lord Himself, are wholly divine and supreme, 
and, as it were, substantial touches of the divine union 
between Himself and the soul ; in one of these, because 
it is the highest possible degree of prayer, the soul 
receives greater good than in all the rest. These are 
the touches for which the bride in the Canticle prayed, 
saying, ' Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth. 'f 

12. This being a state so near unto God, into which 
the soul so anxiously longs to enter, one touch of the 
Godhead is prized and desired by it above all the other 

* § 8. t Cant. i. i. 


gifts which God grants it. For this reason the bride in 
the Canticle, after the great things wrought in her, of 
which she there sings, not finding them enough, prays 
for the divine touches, saying : ' Who shall give to me 
Thee my brother, sucking the breasts of my mother, 
that I may find Thee without, and kiss Thee ' with the 
mouth of my soul, ' and now no man despise me,'* or 
presume to assail me. These words relate to that com- 
munication which God makes alone, without, and hidden 
from all creatures ; that is the meaning of the words 
' alone,' ' without,' and ' sucking.' This occurs when 
the soul in liberty of spirit enjoys these blessings in 
sweetness and inward peace, the sensual part thereof 
unable to hinder it, and the devil by means of it not 
able to disturb it. 

13. Then indeed, the evil spirit would not venture to 
assail the soul, because he could not succeed, neither 
can he know of those divine touches in the substance of 
the soul with the substance of God, which is wrought 
by loving knowledge. No man can arrive at this 
blessed condition but by the most perfect purgation 
and detachment, by being spiritually hidden from all 
created things. It is a work wrought in the dark, in 
the hiding place, wherein the soul is confirmed more 
and more in union with God by love ; and, therefore, 
the soul sings, ' In darkness and concealment.' 

* Cant. viii. i. 



14. When these favours are granted to the soul in 
secret, that is, in the spirit only, the higher and lower 
portions of the soul seem to it during some of them — it 
knows not how, to be so far apart that it recognises two 
parts in itself, each so distinct from the other, that 
neither seems to have anything in common with the 
other, being in appearance so far removed and apart. 
And, in reality, this is in a certain manner true, for in its 
present operations, which are wholly spiritual, it has no 
commerce with the sensual part. 

15. Thus the soul becomes wholly spiritual, and the 
spiritual passions and desires are in a high degree 
suppressed in this hiding place of unitive contemplation. 
The soul then, speaking of its higher part, sings the last 
line of this stanza, ' My house being now at rest.' 


Concludes the explanation of the second stanza. 

Mj' house being now at rest. 

This is as much as saying. My higher nature and my 
lower nature also, each in its desires and powers, being 
now at rest, I went forth to the divine union of the love 
of God. 

2. As in the warfare of the dark night, as I said 


before,* the soul undergoes a twofold contest and 
purgation : that is, in the sensual and the spiritual part, 
with their senses, powers, and passions, so also, in the 
sensual and spiritual parts, with all their powers and 
desires, does it attain to a twofold peace and rest. For 
this reason it repeats the words, as I said before,! ' My 
house being now at rest,' at the end of the second stanza, 
because of the two parts of the soul, spiritual and 
sensual, which, if they are to go forth into the divine 
union of love, must first of all be changed, ordered, and 
tranquillised with regard to all the things of sense and 
spirit, after the likeness of the state of innocence in 
Adam, notwithstanding- that the soul be not wholly 
delivered from the temptations of the lower part. These 
words, therefore, which in the first stanza are understood 
of the tranquillity of the lower and sensual part, now, in 
the second stanza, are understood particularly of the 
higher and spiritual part ; and this is the reason of the 

3. The soul obtains this tranquillity and rest of the 
spiritual house, habitually and perfectly — so far as it is 
possible in this life — through the substantial touches of 
the divine union, of which I have just spoken,^ and 
which, in secret, hidden from the turmoil of satan, sense, 
and passion, it receives from the Divinity, whereby it 

* Bk. I, ch. viii. § I, Bk. 2, ch. i. § i. f Ch. xiv. § i. 

I Ch. xxiii. § 1 1. 


has been tranquillised, purified, strengthened, and con- 
firmed, so as to become an effectual partaker of that 
union which is its divine betrothal to the Son of God. 
The instant the two houses of the soul are tranquil and 
confirmed, with the whole household of its powers and 
desires sunk in sleep and silence, as to all things of 
heaven and earth, the divine Wisdom, immediately in a 
new bond of loving possession, unites itself to the soul, 
and that is fulfilled which is written, ' While quiet 
silence contained all things and the night was in the 
mid-way of her course, Thy omnipotent Word sallying 
out of heaven from the royal seats.'* The same truth is 
set before us in the Canticle, where the bride, after 
passing by those who took her veil away and wounded 
her, saith, ' When I had a little passed by them, I found 
Him whom my soul loveth.'t 

4. This union is unattainable without great purity, 
and this purity is attainable only by detachment from 
all created things and sharp mortifications. This is 
signified by the robbery of the veil and the wounding 
of the bride in the night when she went forth searching 
after her beloved ; for the new veil of the betrothal 
cannot be put on till the old veil be taken away. He, 
therefore, who will not go out in this dark night to seek 
the Beloved, who will not deny and mortify his own 
will, but seek him at his ease on his bed, as the bride 

* Wisd. xviii. 14. f Cant. iii. 4. 


once did,* will never find Him. The soul says here that 
it found Him, as the soul says of itself that it found 
Him by going forth in the dark, and in the anxieties of 


In which the third stanza is briefly explained. 

In that happy iii'^ht, 

In secret, seen of none. 

Seeing nought myself. 

Without other light or guide 

Save that which in my heart was burning. 

The soul still continues the metaphor of natural night 
in celebrating and magnifying the blessings of the 
night of the spirit, by means of which it has been able 
quickly and securely to compass the desired end. Three 
of these blessings are set before us in this stanza. 

2. The first is that in this blessed night of con- 
templation God is guiding the soul by a road so solitary 
and so secret, so remote and alien from sense, that 
nothing belonging thereto, nor any created thing, can 
approach it so as to disturb it or detain it on the road of 
the union of love. 

3. The second blessing is that because of the 
spiritual darkness of this night, in which all the faculties 

* Cant. iii. i. 


of the higher part of the soul are in darkness, the soul, 
seeing nothing, and unable to see, is not detained by 
anything which is not God from drawing near unto Him, 
and, therefore, advances unhindered by forms and figures 
and natural apprehensions : for these are the things 
which usually hinder the soul, from being always in 
union with God. 

4. The third blessing is, that though the soul is 
supported by no particular interior light of the under- 
standing, nor by any exterior guide comforting it on 
this high road — the thick darkness has deprived it of all 
this — yet love and faith, now burning within it, drawing 
the heart towards the Beloved, influence and guide it, 
and make it fly upwards to God along the road of 
solitude, while it knows neither how nor by what means 
that is done. 





Angels, the ministry of. 119. 

Anger, imperfections of, 21. 

Aridity, the purgative, 35 ; cause of, 36 ; benefit of, 59, 62, 86. 

Attachment to trifles, 14. 

Avarice, spiritual, 13 ; imperfections of, 13, 57. 

Beginners, state of, 5 ; weak in virtue, 7 ; subject to pride, 8 ; im- 
perfections of, 9 ; readiness of, to teach others, 12 ; childishness 
of, 12 ; impatience of, 22 ; disobedient to their directors, 23 
delusions of, in the matter of prayer, 26. 

Blasphemy, spirit of, 65. 

Blessedness, 118. 

Blessings, three, of the spiritual night, 181. 

Burning of the soul, 109, 114 ; effects of, 116 ; not always felt, 121. 

Charity, robe of, 166 ; effects of, 168, 

Contemplation, commencement of, 37 ; effects of, 40, ']6, -ji, 80, 86, 
122, 138 ; not granted to all spiritual persons, 119 ; nature of, 
44 ; dark night of, 69 ; a ray of darkness, 80, 139 ; painfulness 
of, 80 ; light of, TOO, loi ; secret, 146 ; called a ladder, 151. 

Devotion, sensible, 22-27. 

Dionysius, St., 80. 

Disguise of the soul, 162. 

Disturbances, caused by the evil spirit, 173. 

Ecstasies, source of, 70. 

Egypt, fleshpots of, loi. 

Envy, holy, 27. 

Escape of the soul, 131. 

Faith, robe of, 164 ; "^effects of, 167. 

Fear of God, 59, 73. 


Fervour of Beginners, lo. 

Fire of contemplation, loS. 

Friendship, spiritual, 19. 

Giddiness, spirit of, 65. 

Gluttony, spiritual, 22, 58. 

Hope, robe of, 165 ; effects of, 167. 

Humility, effects of, s^- 

Illumination of the angels, 120. 

Imperfections of beginners, 5. 

Job, trials of, 53. 

Knowledge of self, 51, 55. 

Ladder, the secret, 132, 149; the ten steps of, 152-162. 

Love, two kinds of, 20 ; reverential, 124 ; degrees of contemplation, 


Lukewarmness, 35. 

Luxury, spiritual, 16 ; effects of, 19 ; correction of, ^8. 

Mary Magdalene, 125. 

Meditation, when to be abandoned, 43 ; on the Life of Christ, 44. 

Melancholy, 19, 35. 

Miracles, false, 174. 

Mortification, fruits of, 63. 

Neighbour, love of, 56. 

Night, the dark, effects of, 20, 30 ; two kinds of, 31. 

of sense, 33 ; tests of, 34 ; troubles of, 41 ; benefits of, 47, 59 • 

entered by few, 48 ; brings with it the knowledge of God, 54 ; 

duration of, 66. 

Night of the spirit, 31, 32 ; entered by few, 64 ; beginnings of, 68 ; 
effects of, 76, 117, 135 ; pains of, 83 ; misery of the soul in, 92 ; 
duration of, 93 ; pains of, greater than those of the night of sense, 
123 ; blessings of, 131, 137, 169, 181. 

Obedience, 23. 

Pains of the soul in contemplation, 96, 105. 

Patience, 59. 


Perfection, true, 15 ; conditions of, 150. 
Presence of God, 122. 

Proficients, sweetness of, 69 ; certain imperfections of, 71, 75 ; why 

spiritual sweetness was granted to, 74. 
Purgation, distress of the soul in its, 94. 

Purgatory in this life, 87, 161 ; how the souls suffer in. no. 
Rachel, 126. 

Recollection, interior effects of, on the memory, 97. 
Reverence, 52. 

Satan, buffetings of, 18 ; delusions of, 72 ; works through the senses, 
170, 171 ; why allowed to disquiet souls, 172-175. 

Self-delusion of beginners, 8, 23. 

Sloth, spiritual, 27. 

Soul, the cause of the errors of, 133. 

Spirit, liberty of, 62, 63, 70. 

Strong, the trials of, 66. 

Submission of the will, 28. 

Sufferings, advantages of, 138. 

Sweetness, spiritual, 21 ; how corrected, 57 ; from God, 61. 

Teresa, St., writings of, 12. 

Theology, mystic, 78 ; enlightens the understanding, 121 ; infused 
by love, 143 ; hides the soul, 146. 

Thirst, the living, 46. 

Tobias, 103. 

Touches, divine, 82, 176. 

Union, the divine, requisites for, 103 ; effects of, 179. 

Vexation, 53. 

Waters, the dark, 139, 141. 

Way, the illuminative, 64. 

Weak, the trials of, 66. 

Wisdom, the divine, 79, 119; secret, 143; effects of, 144; inexpli- 
cable, 144, 147 ; a ladder, 149. 

Zeal, indiscreet, 21. 




A List of 

Catholic Books 






N.B. — All the publications contained in this 
Catalogue are issued at inet prices, and 
under no circumstances can any discount be 
given to the public. The books may be 
obtained either directly from the Publisher, 
or through any local Bookseller. 




Being Gleanings from the Works op 

("Doctor Ecstaticus") a Mystic of the XlVth Century. 

Translated hy EARLE BAILLIE. 
Cr. 8vo, cloth extra ...... 2s. net. 

Dionysius Carthusianus, speaking of Ruysbroek, says : "His authority I 
believe to be that of a man to whom the Holy Ghost has revealed His secrets." 

" Ce moine possedait un des plus sages, des plus exacts, et des plus 
sub tils organes philosophiques qui ai jamais existe." — Maeterlinck. 

"The ' Reflections ' contain sixteen chapters of the choicest thoughts of 
the great Mystic. . . . We have great pleasure in recommending this 
work, which will well repay the reader." — The Tablet, May, 1905. 

"Ruysbroek, from whose spiritual writings this excellent work has been 
compiled by Ernest Hello, was bom in Belgium in the year 1203. They 
contain lessons of piety for persons in every state of life, and will help the 
sincere reader on the road to perfection. . . , We have great pleasure in 
recommending this work." — Tablet. 

"It is good for modem busy people to read such selections, they will 
serve as a sedative for feverish states and over-active propensities, shedding 
calm without inducing inaction." — Catholic Examiner, Bombay. 

" A welcome contribution to the ascetic literature of our language." — 
Ave Maria. 

" The one criticism that we pass upon it is that it is so short. . . . 
Every book of selections from the old mystics is a favour to be cordially 
appreciated : for the old masters of prayer are incomparably the best." — New 
York Catholic World. 



A Short Account of the 


Canon Regular of Groenendael, A.D. 1293-1381, 

By DoM Vincent Scully, C R.L. 

Cr. 8vo, cloth, with portrait - - 2s. 6d. net. 

" A simple and readable account in English of the life and writings of a 
remarkable Flemish Mystic of the fourteenth century, contemporary with our 
own Walter Hilton, and whose teachings have had a profound influence on 
many well-known Spiritual Authors such as Denys the Carthusian, Blosius, 
etc., especially Thomas a Kempis. 




(207 pp.), cr. 8vo, cloth - - - - 2s. 6d. net. 

Part I.— The Priesthood of Jesus Christ. 

Of Sacrifice in General — Sacrifice of the Christian ReUgion — The Design of 
God in the reconciliation of men and of the qualities of the priest who should 
be the mediator.— That Jesus Christ is a priest according to the order ot 
Melchisedeck, not according to the order of Aaron — When and how Jesus 
Christ fulfilled the functions of a priest — Of the difference which exists 
between the sacrifice of the Cross, that of the Mass, and that of Heaven. 

Part II.— Symbolism of Christian Worship. 

The Holy of Holies a figure of the Bosom of God ; the entrance of the high 
priest, a figure of the entry of Jesus Christ into that adorable temple— Jesus 
Christ is the Altar; visible altars only figurative — Proofs drawn from the 
Canon of the Mass and from the Gospel that Jesus Christ is the true altar — 
That the Holy Ghost is the fire of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Charles de Condren, General of the Oratory, was one of the most distin- 
guished Ecclesiastics of France in the reign of Henri IV. His most important 
book, which was published after his death, is entitled " L'Id&e du Sacerdoce 
de Jesus Christ," of which the present volume ("The Eternal Sacrifice") 
is a translation. 

He was the Spiritual Father and Guide of the Saintly M. Olier (Foimder 
of the College of S. Sulpice), who said of him that perhaps no man ever 
penetrated more profoundly into the sublimest mysteries of the faith, while 
St. Jane Francis de Chantal, comparing him with St. Francis de Sales, says, 
" It seemed to me that God had given our blessed Father to teach Men, but 
that he had made Pere de Condren fit to teach Angels," 



The following volumes are now ready : 




Translated by DAVID LEWIS, with Corrections and a Prefatory Essay on 
CarmeUte Mysticism by the V. R. PRIOR ZIMMERMANN, O.C.D. 

Handsome 8vo, cloth - - . 7s. 6d. net. 

"The Study of St. John of the Cross is essential to any true understanding 
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work of St. John as ably and sympathetically done, &c., &c." — Guardian. 

" To approach the writings of St. John of the Cross is to tread upon 
holy ground, " Come not nigh hither, put off the shoes from thy feet." In 
accord with this precept we invite attention to a work of deep spiritual 
importance and vast literary interest, &c." — Downside Review. 




Translated from the Spanish by DAVID LEWIS, revised and edited with an 
Introductory Essay by BENEDICT ZIMMERMAN, O.C.D. 

190S, 8vo, cloth - - - - 5s. net. 

" The Dark Night treats of the passive purgation divinely effected when 
human endeavours have been exhausted. In it St. John takes the various 
trials that may beset the soul in its spiritual journey, and shows how, so far 
from being hindrances to its progress, they may be made the means of definite 
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"We hope that this work will have a large sale." — Ushaw Mag. 



Translated by DAVID LEWIS, with corrections and an Introduction by the 

V. REV. BENEDICT ZIMMERMAN, O.C.D., Prior of St. Luke's, 

Wincanton, Somerset. 

In I vol, demy 8vo, cloth extra - - - - 6s. 6d. 

The Remainder of the Works o-f St. John of the Cross 
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Meditations on the Love of God 

From the Spanish of FRAY DIEGO DE ESTELLA, 



Crown 8vo, cloth (pub. 3s. 6d.) - - - Is. 6d. 

" Of the book it must be enough to say that it is written in a vein of lofty 
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is not unworthy of a place beside the ' Imitation of Christ.' " — Scotsman. 

Fray Diego de EsteUa was Priest of the Friars Minor at Salamanca. He 
was Royal Preacher, Adviser, and Theologian to Philip II. Bom 1524, 
died 1578. 


Summa Theologica ad emendatiores editiones impressa 
et accuratissime recognita. 

RomcB Typographia Senatus, 1894. 

6 thick vols, 8vo, half morocco - - - £1 16s. 




Exposition of the Doctrinal Differences between Catholics 
and Protestants, as evinced by their Sj^mbolical Writings, 


Translated from the German by JAMES BURTON ROBERTSON. 

Fifth Edition. London, 1906. 

8vo, cloth, NEAv - - - 3s. 6d. net. 



(A.D. 750). 




Translated from the Original Greek by 

(Author of ^^ Leaves from S. Chrysostotn," etc.). 

Crown 8vo, cloth ------ 2s. net. 

"A work that will be read with much interest, especially at the present 
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for the first time published in Enghsh (translated from the original Greek by 
Mary A. Allies)." — Catholic Record. 

" This book is as a useful weapon in the hands of those who fight for the 
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the doctrine of devotion to our Lady to have existed from the remotest ages of 
the Christian era, and points out the, as it were, necessity of the same. A 
valuable addition, indeed, to a library of patristic writings.' — The Universe. 


Twent5^-five Instructive Sermons on the Gospels for the 

Sundays after Pentecost (with a full Sy^iopsis to each Sermon 

for the use of Preachers), by the 

Rsv. ARTHUR DEVINE (Passionist), 

Author of '• The Creed Explained,'" " The Commandfuenis Explained," " The 
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Cr. 8vo, cloth, new, 1908 - - - 4s. 6d. net. 

Contents: — The Great Day of the Lord — The Refused Banquet —The 
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Deaf and Dumb— On Gratitude to God— Catholic Funerals and Burials— 
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— The Called and the Chosen— The Duty of Forgiveness, etc. 

" This book will well repay careful reading." — Catholic Times. 

" We feel sure that this collection will at once commend itself to the 
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Compiled from Original Documents and Edited by 

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Being a short Account of its Treasures, from a 

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Edited by 


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The Life of Dom Bartholomew of 
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Conferences at Rome, Florence and Milan. 


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A Compendium of the Pars Prima 

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St. Thomas Aquinas. 


Translated into English. 

With an Introduction and an Appendix Explanatory of Scholastic Terms 


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New Editions of Saint Teresa's Works. 




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Written by Herself, 

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THE INTERToR castle, 


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XXV Short Sermons on Doctrinal 
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Third Edition. 

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Second Editioji. 

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Heads of Chapters : 

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Date Due 



.)AN 2 

8 1997 

i^R 2 ( 





1AM 1 


- i.uU£ 



NO 24 161 








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STACKS BV5080.J77573X 

John of the Cross, 
The dark night of the soul 

3 5282 00087 5818